UN says warring parties in Yemen agree to renew nationwide truce

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations said Thursday that Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to renew a national truce for another two months. The announcement offered a glimmer of hope for the country, plagued by eight years of civil war, although significant obstacles remain to a lasting peace.

The ceasefire between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels came into effect on April 2 – the first national truce in the past six years of conflict in the world’s poorest nation Arab. However, both sides accused the other of sometimes violating the ceasefire.

The announcement, which is the result of UN efforts, came just hours before the initial truce was due to expire later Thursday.

“The truce represents a significant change in the trajectory of the war and was achieved through responsible and courageous decision-making by the parties,” UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement. communicated.

He said he would mediate talks between the warring parties to solidify the new truce and eventually reach a political settlement to end the conflict.

The fighting erupted in 2014 when Houthi rebels descended from their northern enclave and took control of the capital of Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition went to war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power.

The conflict eventually escalated into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The war has killed more than 150,000 people, including more than 14,500 civilians, and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

The provisions of the initial truce included the reopening of routes around the besieged city of Taiz, the establishment of two commercial flights per week between Sanaa and Jordan and Egypt, and also the authorization of 18 ships carrying fuel in the port of Hodeidah. Sanaa and Hodeida are controlled by Houthi rebels.

Later Thursday, the government’s presidential council voiced support for the UN envoy’s efforts and reiterated that the Houthis should be urged to reopen the roads around Taiz, according to the state-run Saba news agency.

There was no immediate comment from the rebels.

In recent weeks, commercial flights have resumed from Sanaa and fuel shipments have arrived. However, the opening of roads around Taiz remains a contested issue. The two sides have yet to agree on a framework for lifting the blockade on the key city.

Fighting, airstrikes and shelling have diminished since the truce began in early April, and rebels have ceased cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two mainstays of the Saudi-led coalition. saudi.

The Norwegian Refugee Council hailed the extension of the truce as a sign of a “serious commitment” to ending the conflict. The Council’s director for Yemen, Erin Hutchinson, expressed hope that the ceasefire could lead to further progress in reopening roads so that humanitarian aid can reach the needy and more displaced Yemenis. can go home.

Many Yemenis and observers point to the fact that the fighting has been reduced, but not completely stopped. According to the Norwegian humanitarian group, the initial truce led to a drop of more than 50% in the number of civilian casualties in the first month.

Head of the Gulf Six Cooperation Council, Nayef al-Hajraf, welcomed the extension of the truce in a statement, expressing hope that it would be conducive to a comprehensive peace in Yemen.

The GCC, a Saudi-based bloc representing Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, shapes economic policies in these Gulf Arab countries, serving as a Sunni-led Arab counterweight to the Iranian Shiite power.

Additionally, the European Union Delegation to Yemen tweeted that it welcomes the decision, stressing the importance of lifting the lockdown on the city of Taiz.

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