By Murad al-Urayfi
ISTANBUL (AA) - Yemen's Houthi rebel group announced Friday that they had halted attacks on Saudi Arabia and called on Riyadh to make a similar move.
"We announce the cessation of targeting the territory of Saudi Arabia with unmanned aerial vehicles and ballistic missiles, and we expect the same from Saudi Arabia," Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Political Council, said in a televised speech on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of his group's control of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.
Al-Mashat stressed that his group reserves the right to respond if Saudi Arabia fails to respond to its initiative to stop attacks.
"The continuation of the war will benefit no one," he said. "It may lead to serious developments that we do not want to happen.”
He warned that the Saudi-led coalition forces would incur "the greatest damage" from the continuation of the war.
Al-Mashat called on the Saudi-led coalition to lift the ban on Sanaa International Airport and stop intercepting ships bound for the Red Sea.
He also called on the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and all parties to engage in serious and genuine negotiations leading to comprehensive national reconciliation.
He said his group had fulfilled nearly 90% of its obligations under an agreement reached late last year in Sweden and accused the Yemeni government of not fulfilling its obligations.
In December, Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Stockholm which yielded a ceasefire agreement in the Red Sea port city of Al-Hudaydah.
The warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from Al-Hudaydah amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.
Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while another 14 million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.