A crane unloads wheat from a cargo ship at the Red Sea port of Hodeida, Yemen. Image Credit: Reuters

Al Mukalla: A military plan is in place for Yemen—backed by a Saudi-led coalition—to strike the Al Houthi-held Hodeidah port on the Red Sea, Yemen’s foreign minister has said.

In an interview with the Saudi-owned Al Riyadh newspaper, Abdul Malik Al Mekhlafi said that a military offensive in Hodeida would bring about a peaceful settlement that would end the more than three years of civil war.

“Al Hodeida is part of the war and it is the only remaining smuggling point under the control of Al Houthis and Saleh. We have[prepared] a plan for the liberation of Al Hodeida,” Al Mekhlafi said, adding that his government has agreed to a proposal put forth by UN envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad which aims to disrupt the flow of arms to the rebels through the strategic port city.

Al Houthis will only come to the negotiating table when “all of their illusions about a military victory in Yemen are broken”, Al Mekhlafi said.

His comments come a month after Yemen president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said that he believed a military solution was the only way to end the Yemen crisis—peace efforts have been deadlocked for months.

Al Houthis have rejected repeated calls by the UN envoy to hand over control of the port city to neutral Yemeni forces under the aegis of the United Nations.

The Yemeni government has said that the rebels have made millions of dollars by taxing goods that come through the sea port who have, in turn, used it to fund their miltiary efforts across Yemen.

In the same interview, Al Mekhlafi accused former UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Bin Omar, of not taking the threat of Al Houthi expansion in Yemen seriously.

“He never called the coup illegal,” he said.

Bin Omar, a veteran Moroccan diplomat, resigned 2015 after coming under strong criticism from Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition for his lenient stance on Al Houthis.

The Yemeni government is backing peace efforts by the current UN envoy, but Al Mekhlafi says that he needs to be tougher on the rebels for obstructing peace.

Echoing the foreign minister’s threat, a Yemeni army spokesperson, Brigadier General Abdo Abdullah Majili, told Gulf News that government forces have “knocked the doors” of Hodeida province after pushing Al Houthi militants from strategic locations in Mokha district in Taiz province.

“We do think that a military option would not only solve the crisis of Hodeida, but the whole country,” Majili said.

Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi came to power in early 2012 after massive Arab Spring protests ousted former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Hadi was forced to decamp to the city of Aden after escaping Al Houthi-imposed house arrest after the rebels took over the government in a coup in 2014.

Since then, Hadi has shifted government headquarters to Aden from where he has led an offensive to liberate Al Houthi-occupied territories.

With help from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, the Yemeni army has achieved widespread gains in many provinces, but Al Houthis still control the capital, Sana’a, and most northern provinces including Hodeida, Ibb, Mahweet, Yareem, Amran, Baydha and Hajja.