Saudi proposes five-day Yemen ceasefire

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Thursday proposed a five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen after weeks of air strikes and clashes, with top US diplomat John Kerry urging Iran-backed rebels to accept the offer.

The Saudi-led bombing has failed to halt Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, and concern has been mounting over increasing civilian deaths.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced the ceasefire proposal after talks with Mr Kerry, who described it as a "major opportunity" to ease the crisis. Mr Jubeir said he had informed Kerry of "the kingdom's idea of a five-day ceasefire in Yemen to coordinate with international organisations to deliver aid to Yemen".

But he said it would only apply "if the Huthis and their allies commit to this and do not carry out acts of aggression".

A date for the ceasefire, "will soon be set," he told a joint news conference in Riyadh with the US secretary of state.

"No bombing, no shooting, no movement or repositioning of troops to achieve military advantage," Mr Kerry said, adding the ceasefire could be renewable but rebels must meet those commitments.

"This ceasefire is conditioned on Huthis," he said, appealing to the rebels and their backers "to use all their influence not to miss this major opportunity to address the needs of the Yemeni people and find a peaceful way forward".

The call coincided with a renewed UN plea for a humanitarian pause in Yemen, where weeks of war have now killed more than 1,400 people and injured nearly 6,000 - many of them civilians.

"I repeat my call for a humanitarian pause, to be observed by all parties, to allow civilians to escape conflict areas and access basic services, and to enable humanitarian agencies to provide life-saving assistance," said the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw.

Mr Kerry said during his Riyadh talks there was no discussion about sending troops into Yemen, whose exiled government has appealed for action on the ground. "We urge the international community to quickly intervene by land forces to save Yemen, especially Aden and Taez," Yemen said a letter to the UN Security Council. -