By Nika Knight
The United States, Britain, and the U.N. peace envoy to Yemen called Sunday for an unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to take place “within hours.”
The two nations are trying “to seize on outrage caused by the killing of 140 people in a Saudi airstrike,” the Guardian reports.
The newspaper describes the details of the proposed ceasefire:
The US secretary of state, John Kerry, said if Yemen’s opposing sides accepted and moved forward on a ceasefire then the UN special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, would work through the details and announce when and how it would take effect.
“This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table,” Kerry said after a brief meeting with the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, and other officials in London. “We cannot emphasize enough today the urgency of ending the violence in Yemen.”
Kerry said he, Johnson and Cheikh Ahmed were calling for the implementation of a ceasefire “as rapidly as possible, meaning Monday, Tuesday.” Kerry and Johnson also met the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.
The brutal Saudi-led bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels has lasted for over 18 months, and the U.S. continues to sell billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia despite repeated reports that the kingdom has been targeting civilian sites.
Johnson’s and Kerry’s ceasefire call “came after meetings in London with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and senior UAE officials,” Reuters reports. “Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Saturday in Switzerland on the sidelines of Syria talks.”
Reuters quotes Kerry’s statements on the ceasefire at length:
“It is a crisis now of enormous proportions with an increasing economic, increasing humanitarian and health crisis, and obviously the military components are troubling to everybody,” Kerry said.
He added that the release of two American prisoners by Yemen’s Houthi and the evacuation of Yemeni civilians wounded in a Saudi airstrike were “an important humanitarian gesture by the Saudis to address the humanitarian concern”.
Kerry did not appear to mention the United States’ most recent $1.15 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, nor address the U.S. airstrikes that struck Yemen Wednesday.
The conflict in Yemen “has killed almost 6,900 people, wounded more than 35,000 and displaced at least three million since March last year, according to the United Nations,” AFP notes, adding that civilians “have paid the heaviest price in an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.”