KUWAIT: Tehran wants all parties in Yemen to return to talks, Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian has said, adding the Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia can work together to end the conflict there.
“Iran and Saudi Arabia can cooperate to solve the Yemeni crisis,” Mr Abdollahian told reporters in Kuwait on Tuesday, speaking through a translator.
“We recommend all parties in Yemen return to calm and dialogue.”
Asked whether Iran had any channels of communication with its regional rival, Mr Abdollahian said: “We are trying.”
He gave no details but, asked whether Tehran had a plan for resolving the war, he replied: “We have a proposal.”
Iran supports the Houthi fighters who control Sanaa and have launched an offensive against forces loyal to Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in the southern port city of Aden. But it denies Saudi accusations that it has given military assistance to the Houthis.
It has also criticised the six-day Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis and allied Yemeni army units.
“The Saudi military attacks on Yemen are a strategic mistake,” Mr Abdollahian said. “Reaching a political solution requires an immediate halt to the military operations… and the start of dialogue (between) all the Yemeni parties.”
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, said the operation would continue until it achieved its aims of restoring security and unity to Yemen.
“We are not the ones calling for war. But if you bang the drums of war, we are ready for it,” he told the kingdom’s Shura Council advisory body.
Saudi troops, meanwhile, clashed with Yemeni Houthi fighters on Tuesday in the heaviest exchange of cross-border fire since the start of the Saudi-led air offensive last week. And Yemen’s foreign minister called for a rapid Arab intervention on the ground.
Residents and tribal sources in north Yemen reported artillery and rocket exchanges along several stretches of the Saudi border. Explosions and heavy gunfire were heard and Saudi helicopters flew overhead, they said.
In the southern port of Aden, Houthi fighters and allied army units pressed an offensive against forces loyal to Mr Hadi, trying to capture the last remaining major stronghold of the absent president’s forces.
At least 36 people were killed when Houthi forces shelled Hadi loyalists in Aden. Jets from the Saudi-led coalition bombed Houthi positions near the airport.
Mr Hadi’s rump government, now based in Saudi Arabia, is calling for Riyadh to escalate the air war into an invasion. Asked by an interviewer on pan-Arab television channel al-Arabiya Hadath whether he sought an Arab ground intervention, Yemeni foreign minister Riyadh Yasseen responded: “Yes, we are asking for that, and as soon as possible, in order to save our infrastructure and save Yemenis under siege in many cities.”
Saudi authorities say they have gathered troops along the border in preparation for any possible ground offensive, but have given no timetable to send them in.
In the southern city of Dhalea, residents reported heavy fighting, with southern secessionist fighters trading artillery fire with Houthis backed up by army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Repeated air strikes hit Houthi and allied positions, including an ammunition store at a military base causing huge explosions. An eyewitness said nine southern fighters were killed, along with around 30 Houthi and allied fighters.
In the central town of Yarim, an air strike hit a fuel tanker, killing at least 10 people, residents said.
While the air strikes have not halted Houthi gains, the Saudi-led coalition says it has succeeded in closing off Yemeni airspace to Houthi supporters and imposing a naval blockade.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said one of its planes was prevented from delivering medical supplies in Sanaa, and called for “the urgent removal of obstacles to the delivery to Yemen of vital medical supplies needed to treat casualties”.
It also called on all combatants to allow humanitarian workers to operate safely.