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Cablegate: Yemen: Houthis Say They Agree to Ceasefire Points

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHYN #0064/01 0131453
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 131453Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3535
INFO RUEHRH/AMEMBASSY RIYADH 1732
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T SANAA 000064
NOFORN
SIPDIS
FOR NEA/ARP AMACDONALD AND INR JYAPHE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/13/2020
TAGS: PGOV PREL MOPS YM
SUBJECT: YEMEN: HOUTHIS SAY THEY AGREE TO CEASEFIRE POINTS,
BUT ROYG REMAINS WARY
REF: 09 SANAA 2287
Classified By: Ambassador Stephen Seche for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).
1. (S) SUMMARY. The Houthi rebels’ January 6 acceptance in
writing of the ROYG’s six conditions for a ceasefire,
including the cessation of attacks in Saudi Arabia, has thus
far been ignored by a Yemeni government determined to end the
five-year rebellion once and for all. It is unclear if the
Houthis have accepted the ROYG’s conditions because they are
feeling pressure from alleged ROYG military successes or
other factors entirely, such as a desire to regroup and
re-arm as they have done after past rounds of conflict.
Publicly, the ROYG continues to call for a dialogue with the
Houthi rebels. Although the ball appears to be in the ROYG’s
court as to when and under what conditions to begin
negotiations with the rebels, the government remains
justifiably concerned about the Houthis’ true intentions.
END SUMMARY.
2. (S/NF) The Houthi rebels have accepted the ROYG’s six
conditions for a ceasefire agreement, including the cessation
of hostilities against Saudi Arabia, according to al-Haq
party secretary general and Houthi mediator Hassan Zayd, who
also said that Houthi leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi is alive
and well, despite reports of his death in late December
(reftel). In a January 6 letter from Abulmalik al-Houthi,
which Zayd recognized as Houthi’s penmanship and signature
and showed to PolOff, Houthi writes, "We renew what we had
announced earlier of accepting the five points with the
understanding of our legitimate demands in addressing the
effects of the war after installation of a ceasefire.
Regarding the territories that are under Saudi control, we
will not target them if the Saudis stop their aggression."
According to Zayd, the contents of the letter were passed to
President Saleh, who has not yet responded. (Note: The
Houthis accepted the ROYG’s previous five conditions for a
ceasefire in early December, but the ROYG rejected their
offer because of Saleh’s annoyance that it was not made
publicly, according to sensitive reporting. The Houthis have
announced their current offer for a ceasefire on their
website. End Note.)
3. (S) Publicly, the ROYG continues to call for a dialogue
with the Houthi rebels, including in President Saleh’s
January 1 editorial in official al-Thawra newspaper and his
January 9 interview on Abu Dhabi TV. Saleh, in his New
Year’s message, called on the Houthis to "lay down your
weapons," and in return "the state will extend its hand for
peace." In response to Saleh’s recent calls for dialogue,
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdusalam said that the government
had to stop attacking the rebels before any serious dialogue
could be conducted. "The President is continuing to include
the Houthis in his general calls for dialogue, but it is
unclear if his intentions are serious," NDI Deputy Country
Director Murad Zafir told PolOff on January 11. Opposition
Islah party Assistant Secretary General Mohammed al-Sadi said
that the president’s recent comments seemed to suggest that
Houthi representatives could be invited to the
twice-postponed National Dialogue, now scheduled for late
January. Sheikh Mohammed bin Naji al-Shaif, a leader of the
Bakil tribal confederation reportedly close to Saleh, told
Pol/E Chief on January 12 that there was constant contact
between members of Parliament acting as intermediaries on the
Houthis’ behalf and the president. (Note: No further
information was available to corroborate Shaif’s claims. End
Note.)
4. (S) On the military front, the ROYG’s "Blow to the Head"
(darabat al-ras) operation is continuing to focus on clearing
Sa’ada City of Houthi rebels. "They have closed the gates to
Sa’ada City," Zayd told PolOff on January 6, "and are working
their way door to door." Ruling General People’s Congress
(GPC) party-affiliated al-Mutamar newspaper reported on
January 10 that ROYG officials are, perhaps optimistically,
calling the current operation "the final one inside Sa’ada
City." (Note: Post has been unable to verify ROYG claims of
success in Sa’ada City. End Note.) Official news outlets
have also reported dozens of Houthi casualties in the last
week, which would make it one of the deadliest weeks for
Houthi rebels since the beginning of the current round of
fighting in August. (Note: Elements of both the Yemen
Special Operations Forces (YSOF) as well as one of four
Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) platoons remain in Sa’ada,
according to other post reporting. Both were sent to the
front ) the YSOF as recently as December ) after Yemen’s
regular forces struggled against the Houthis’ unconventional
tactics. End Note.) The government’s alleged successes in
Sa’ada remain doubtful, however, and even a victory in Sa’ada
City would not necessarily turn the tide in the overall
conflict. World Food Program (WFP) Representative Giancarlo
Cirri told the DATT on January 12 that the road between
Sana’a and Sa’ada City remained closed, with WFP’s relief
supplies uanble to get through to Sa’ada governorate.
COMMENT
-------
5. (S) The situation in Sa’ada remains a delicate one; each
side maintains that it is ready to enter peace negotiations
if ) and only if ) the other side ceases its hostilities
first. The ROYG ) burned five times before by a Houthi
organization that has called for peace only to rebuild and
rearm ) remains justifiably wary of the rebels’ promises.
If ROYG claims of a near-victory in Sa’ada City are true, it
might soon assess that the rebels have been sufficiently
weakened to stay true to their word, and may give the
ceasefire option a try. END COMMENT.
SECHE

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