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Yemen: Hadi tells UN ready for “conditional” ceasefire
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Smoke billows following airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on a weapons depot at a military airport, currently controlled by Yemeni Shi'ite Houthi rebels, on July 7, 2015 in the capital Sana'a. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Smoke billows following airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition on a weapons depot at a military airport, currently controlled by Yemeni Shi’ite Houthi rebels, on July 7, 2015 in the capital Sana’a. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Huwais)

Riyadh, Jeddah and Al-Hudaydah, Asharq Al-Awsat—Yemen’s exiled government told the UN on Wednesday it would accept a temporary ceasefire to end more than three months of fighting if the Houthi rebels accepted certain conditions, including the release of prisoners and withdrawal from the areas under their control.

President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has informed the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in writing of his agreement to implement a “conditional” humanitarian truce in some parts of Yemen as a prelude to expanding it to the rest of the country, Yemen’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

The call comes within the framework of the government’s commitment to bring back peace and stability to Yemen, Riyadh Yassin told Asharq Al-Awsat over the phone.

“The humanitarian truce would begin in some provinces for a few days in order to ensure the seriousness of the Houthis and their allies before gradually expanding it to cover the rest of Yemen’s governorates,” Yassin said.

He added: “The truce would last for five days and could be extended . . . unless there were violations by the Houthis and their allies.”

The conditions include finding mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the truce by the UN, the release of prisoners loyal to Hadi, and the continuation of the air and sea embargo the Saudi-led coalition has imposed on Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and nine other Arab states have been bombing the positions of the Houthis and forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh since late March in a bid to restore President Hadi to power.

On the ground, pro-Hadi forces, known as the Popular Resistance, are fighting the Houthis in coordination with coalition warplanes.

Meanwhile, coalition airstrikes have halted a Houthi advance towards the southern city of Aden—a step the rebel group had intended to use to strengthen their position ahead of truce negotiations with the UN envoy to Yemen.

Saudi-led warplanes have in the last few days targeted military reinforcements, consisting of more than 2,000 heavily armed militants, heading to the Houthis on the route linking the southern provinces of Lahj and Aden, Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The Popular Resistance military council in Aden said it had intercepted calls between Houthis and Saleh loyalists in which they discussed plans to send military reinforcements to rebels trying to seize Aden.

The plan was for those military units to enter Aden before the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, according to the source.

“High-level coordination between the [pro-Hadi] resistance and the coalition forces has thwarted [Houthi] attempts to enter Aden,” Ali Al-Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance, told Asharq Al-Awsat.

After intercepting the calls, resistance forces “increased surveillance of the entrances of Aden and the nearby provinces before they noticed hundreds of Houthis, backed by military vehicles and weapons, moving towards Aden.”

Meanwhile, informed Yemeni sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Houthis have transferred dozens of detainees from a prison in the Ad-Dahi district of Al-Hudaydah to a military camp they control in the western governorate.

The move, the source added, has caused fears among the prisoners’ families. They are worried the Houthis will use the detainees as human shields against the coalition warplanes targeting military camps.

The families have appealed to Al-Hudaydah’s tribal sheikhs and notables to mediate the release of their jailed relatives.

Some of the captives are in critical health conditions, such as Khaled Khalil, the founder of the southern Al-Hirak movement.

“The Houthi armed group also transferred more than 20 captives from the Political Security [Yemen’s intelligence agency] prison in Al-Hudaydah to the intelligence headquarters in Sana’a at dawn on Wednesday without informing their families,” the source added.

Sa’ed Al-Abyadh and Wael Hazzam contributed additional reporting from Jeddah and Al-Hudaydah.