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Home World News Washington Post World News UN says Yemen’s warring parties agree to extend existing ceasefire

UN says Yemen’s warring parties agree to extend existing ceasefire

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SANAA, Yemen – The United Nations said Yemen’s warring factions agreed on Tuesday to extend an existing ceasefire for another two months following concerted international efforts.

The four-month-old ceasefire is the longest nationwide fight since the start of the war in the poorest country in the Arab world, almost eight years ago.

UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement that the country’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels had also agreed to try to reach “a comprehensive ceasefire agreement” as soon as possible.

Yemen’s civil war broke out in 2014, when the Houthis descended from their northern enclave and took over the capital, forcing the government to flee south from exile in Saudi Arabia. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia — then backed by the United States — entered the war in early 2015 to try to bring the government back to power. Since then, the conflict has turned into a proxy war between regional enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran, which supports the Houthis.

The announcement of the ceasefire extension came hours after an Omani delegation concluded three days of talks with the Houthi leadership, including rebel leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi in the capital Sanaa.

Following the announcement, Mohammed Abdel-Salam, Houthi’s chief negotiator and spokesperson, thanked Oman for its efforts and called on the UN to work towards opening the airport in Sanaa and the main port of Hodeida in a tweet.

We emphasize the need to fully implement the #الهدنة clauses, end all Houthi violations, initiate the immediate opening of major roads in Taiz and the rest of the governorates and ensure that revenues of Hodeidah’s ports are used to pay employees’ salaries.

The ceasefire initially went into effect on April 2 and was extended on June 2. In recent months, however, there have been offensive actions.

Both sides have publicly announced that they have strengthened their frontline positions, particularly around the oil-rich city of Marib, which the Houthis have been trying to capture for more than a year. There were also power shows through military parades with thousands of soldiers. The government and Houthis both claimed to have documented dozens of ceasefire violations every week.

But the ceasefire has brought relief to Yemenis who have suffered from political unrest and conflict for a decade. About a third of Yemen’s 30 million people suffer from hunger due to the war and a lack of funding for humanitarian aid, the UN food agency said.

Aside from the lull in violence, the ceasefire allowed for two commercial flights a week from Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt after the country’s airport was closed to passenger flights for years. The ceasefire also called on the Saudi-led coalition to allow a total of 36 ships of fuel into the port of Hodeida over the course of four months. Only 29 ships were admitted to Hodeida on Tuesday, said Essam al-Motwakel, spokesman for the Houthi-run oil company.

Both Sanaa and Hodeida are controlled by the Houthi rebels but are blocked by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

The ceasefire has also called for the opening of roads around Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, which the Houthis have been besieging for years. But the rebels rejected two UN proposals to lift the blockade, the embassy said. Another item on the agenda is to find a way to pay the country’s officials, many of whom have left for years with little or no pay as a result of the civil war. The source of funding for government employees’ salaries remains a serious point of contention.

Ahmed Bin Mubarak, the foreign minister of the internationally recognized government, called on the Houthis to reopen the roads of Taiz and “ensure that the revenues from the Hodeida ports are used to pay civil servants’ salaries.” Port revenues are collected by the Houthis.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the extension of the ceasefire as a positive development, his spokesman said. “We warmly welcome this positive development. The people of Yemen deserve a country in peace,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Aid agencies also welcomed the decision to extend the ceasefire and called on Yemeni leaders to see it as an opportunity to do more serious work on peace.

“We hope that this two-month extension will allow the reopening of roads connecting cities and regions, allow more displaced people to return safely to their homes and ensure that humanitarian aid can reach people have been out of range for too long due to hostilities,” Erin Hutchinson, director of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Yemen, said in a statement.

Tuesday’s extension fell short of a proposed six-month ceasefire extension, a government official said. The Houthis wanted more flights from Sanaa airport and more fuel ships in Hodeida to agree on that extended period. The internationally recognized government would not discuss Houthi demands before the roads open in Taiz, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Presidential government chief Rashad al-Alimi to press for the extension of the ceasefire. He said the ceasefire represents “the best chance for peace in years – we must not let it slip.”

Magdy reported from Cairo. United Nations Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed to this report.



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