Saudi Arabia is weighing a five-day halt to its bombing campaign in Yemen to allow the delivery of aid, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.
The plan’s success hinges on the compliance of Yemen’s Houthi rebels and their allies, al-Jubeir said on Thursday in a news conference with visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
“The actual date will be announced shortly, God willing,” al-Jubeir said. “This is all based on the Houthis complying,” he said. “There will be a cease-fire everywhere or there will be a cease-fire nowhere.”
The plan comes after more than a month of fighting in Yemen and Saudi-led airstrikes killed almost 650 civilians, according to the United Nations. Saudi Arabia and its allies started the bombing campaign in an effort to restore the government of President Abdurabuh Mansur Hadi, after UN-brokered talks on a political settlement collapsed.
The past few days have seen an escalation in the conflict, with intensified bombing by the Saudis, fierce clashes around the southern port of Aden, and mortar strikes by the rebels on a Saudi border town that left several dead.
Ahmed Asseri, a spokesman for the Saudi-led military coalition, promised a “harsh response” to the latter attacks.
‘Pay the Price’
For more, read this QuickTake: Yemen's Fault Lines
Speaking at a press conference hours after al-Jubeir and Kerry had discussed a possible cease-fire, Asseri said the Houthis had crossed a red line by targeting Saudi civilians, changing the nature of the conflict, and must “pay the price.”
Kerry earlier on Thursday urged the Houthis “not to miss this major opportunity to address the needs of the Yemeni people and find a peaceful way forward,” Kerry said. He said neither the U.S. nor the Saudis “are talking about sending ground troops into Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia welcomes talks on the fighting in Yemen “anywhere in the world,” al-Jubeir said. The Houthis have opposed holding the negotiations in Saudi Arabia or one of its Gulf allies.
The kingdom and its Gulf Arab allies accuse Iran of supporting the Shiite Yemeni rebels with weapons and money as the Islamic Republic seeks to expand its influence in the region. Iran denies the charge, and Western diplomats have expressed skepticism about the degree of Iranian involvement.