Saudi Arabia is proposing a temporary truce in neighboring Yemen to help get humanitarian aid into the country, but the offer is contingent on whether Houthi rebels also agree to lay down their arms.
Saudi Arabia’s newly-installed foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, announced the proposal at a news conference Thursday with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Riyadh for talks about war in Yemen.
“The pause will affect all of Yemen for a period of five days,” Jubeir said, according to Reuters. He added, “This is all based on the Houthis complying with the ceasefire.”
The announcement came after Kerry met with Saudi King Salman and Yemen’s exiled president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has been living in Riyadh since being forced to flee Yemen in March.
Kerry said the so-called humanitarian pause wouldn’t start for several days to allow time to persuade the Houthis to accept the terms of the deal, according to The Associated Press.
Kerry said the ceasefire would mean “no bombing, no shooting,” and that neither the U.S. nor Saudi Arabia would send in ground troops.
Delaying the truce would also allow time for international aid agencies to coordinate how to get food, medicine and fuel into Yemen. The U.S. State Department said Wednesday that nearly 16 million people — roughly 60 percent of Yemen’s population — is in need of assistance, and announced it would provide more than $68 million to help humanitarian organizations with their operations.
Saudi Arabia said it will provide $274 million dollars in assistance to Yemen.
As NPR reported earlier, many of Yemen’s airport runways have been damaged by airstrikes during the 6-week old Saudi-led air campaign, making it difficult to get help to the wounded and to the 300,000 people who have been displaced by the fighting.
The southern port city of Aden has seen some of the heaviest fighting. Hundreds of families reportedly are trapped in the center of the city with few supplies, according to the BBC.
A group of 22 major aid agencies in Yemen issued a statement warning that their work is being curtailed by a lack of fuel, according to the aid agency, Action Against Hunger, and that there needs to be a permanent end to the fighting, rather than a temporary ceasefire.