Yemen’s Vice-President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah has urged Houthi fighters to end their offensive aimed at taking over the south, especially the port city of Aden.
Bahah called it a good-will gesture that could open the door to peace initiatives in the country that has been devastated by a power struggle between backers of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and the Houthis.
Speaking in the Saudi capital of Riyadh on Thursday, Bahah also called on the international community to intervene to end the crisis.
Bahah, who was recently appointed by Hadi, told reporters that resolving the country’s humanitarian crisis remained his government’s top priority.
“The international community has to intervene urgently so citizens can live in an appropriate way and in order to end a catastrophe,” Bahah said.
He also called on renegade army units to drop their support for the Houthis.
“I call on all troops and security force personnel to accept the command of the legitimate government and protect the country,” he said.
Bahah, who was accepted by the Houthis as the candidate for prime minister in January after an ill-fated peace agreement between the fighters and Hadi, is widely seen as a potentially unifiying figure to resolve the crisis.
Talks on hold
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Jizan near Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen, said many Yemenis saw Bahah as a saviour.
“The Houthis are not really against Khaled Bahah in principle…they tried to keep him in Sanaa after his resignation a few weeks ago because to them he’s more of a figure of legitimacy than Hadi himself,” he said.
“Bahah is reitarating that dialogue is the objective but on the condition that any dialogue can only happen after the end of this war.”
Bahah would only initiate talks once the Houthis and allied army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, had withdrawn from Aden, Vall said.
The comments by Bahah came as the UN special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, resigned from his role trying to mediate an end to the crisis.
The UN has warned that the country is facing a major humanitarian crisis with about 10.6 million people facing a shortage of food and 4.8 million living in emergency conditions.
The conflict has killed more than 700 people and injured 2,760, according to the UN.