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Saudi Arabia Proposes A 5-Day Truce In Yemen

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir held a joint news conference Thursday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
Andrew Harnik
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (left) and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir held a joint news conference Thursday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

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 cease-fire."

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 cease-fire 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 saidWednesday that nearly 16 million people — roughly 60 percent of Yemen's population — needs assistance, and it announced it would provide more than $68 million to help humanitarian organizations with their operations.

Saudi Arabia said it will provide $274 million 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 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 cease-fire.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.
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