Nov. 19 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia said Monday the Yemeni government will participate in peace talks "soon," as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels began a cease-fire.
The Arab News, owned by a member of the royal family, reported that King Salman made the announcement of Yemen's participation during a speech at the country's Shoura Council.
Hours earlier, Houthi leader Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi ordered the cease-fire against Saudi and United Arab Emirates forces that had come to the aid of the Yemen government.
Last Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition stopped its offensive to retake the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah. The move allowed for humanitarian groups can food and medical supplies to millions of starving civilians.
The cease-fire came at the request of United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths, who told the U.N. Security Council Friday he believed the Yemeni government and Houthis are now committed to working out a political solution to the long-running civil war.
He said the two recently finished an agreement to exchange prisoners and detainees, which he added was "a timely message of hope to the Yemeni people."
U.N. officials said the situation in Yemen has become desperate, as the three-year civil war has robbed the country of life-sustaining infrastructure and is on the brink of widespread famine.
"What I have seen in Yemen this week is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery," David Beasley, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, told the Security Council. He also said a hospital in Sana'a only has room for 20.
"The rest? They go home to die," he said.
Wood Food Program officials said efforts to get food into Hudaydah, a vital distribution route throughout the country, has been nearly choked off as both sides of the war ramped up fighting to control the area.
"[I saw] small children, so malnourished they're little more than skin and bone, lying there with hardly the strength to breathe," Beasley said of a trip to the region. "Let the children live and let the people start to rebuild their lives."
The program said it is committed to providing food and cash assistance for as many as 12 million people in Yemen.