The Old City of Sana’a. Previous truces in Yemen’s 18-month war have collapsed, raising doubts about a new one. Image Credit: Reuters

Riyadh: The Saudi-led coalition fighting in support of Yemen’s government would prefer a broad political settlement to a ceasefire, its spokesman said on Monday.

“I think now it’s not a question of talking about a ceasefire,” Brigadier General Ahmad Assiri said.

Late on Sunday an Al Houthi rebel leader, Saleh Al Sammad, proposed a truce on the country’s border with Saudi Arabia and an amnesty for Yemeni fighters opposing the group if the kingdom stopped air strikes and lifted a near blockade on Yemen.

“[In exchange for] stopping the aggression against our country by land, sea and air, stopping the air strikes and lifting the siege imposed on our country, in return [we will] stop combat operations on the border,” Saleh Al Samad, the chief of an Al Houthi-backed political council, said in a speech.

For months, the Houthis have retaliated with attacks on Saudi Arabia from its mountainous strongholds in northern Yemen and has launched around a dozen ballistic missiles at the kingdom, all of which were intercepted.

Assiri said the coalition welcomes “any effort to have a genuine political settlement” under a peace initiative proposed last month by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

This is preferable to a “short ceasefire without any control, without any observation”, he said.

Previous truces in the 18-month war collapsed.

Samad said the group was prepared to pardon its foes.

“[We call] all fighters on the side of the aggression on the various fronts to respond to a general amnesty and come back into the national fold,” he said.

After talks in Saudi Arabia with his Gulf counterparts, Kerry outlined a plan which offers the Al Houthis participation in government in exchange for an end to violence and a surrender of weapons.

The Al Houthis are allied with soldiers loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

“If they want to have a ceasefire they know what they have to do,” Assiri said, referring to terms of the Kerry plan which were to be refined under United Nations mediation among the parties.

The plan calls for a rebel withdrawal from seized areas including the capital Sana’a which they have held since late 2014.

The United States and Saudi Arabia say Iran, Riyadh’s regional rival, has supplied missiles and other weapons to the Al Houthis.

The coalition intervened in March last year after the rebels overran much of the country.