Yemen government upbeat on truce extension after Houthis say ‘not opposed’

UN-brokered ceasefire set to end in two weeks as international community pushing for extension

Two boys at play in Yemen's rebel-held capital of Sanaa. EPA
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Yemen’s two-month ceasefire could be extended, government officials told The National on Monday, as Houthi rebels said they were “not opposed” to the idea.

The UN-brokered truce began on April 2, at the start of Ramadan, and has largely held despite alleged Houthi violations.

It is set to expire in about two weeks.

Part of the agreement is lifting the Houthi siege on Taez, a city in central Yemen, which has been cut off from the rest of the country. The other element is the reopening of the Houthi-held airport in Sanaa to commercial flights.

“The government is committed to the truce and is aiming at extending it for two months,” a government official, who chose to remain anonymous, told The National.

“However, without progress in Taez, it’s going to be very hard to justify the extension of the truce. The international community needs to pressure the Houthis to achieve progress and lift the siege on Taez, and this would be the tone-setter for the next steps.

The ceasefire is a step in the right direction, said the official, “but it wouldn’t have taken place without the government’s flexibility”.

A meeting on Taez between the two sides is set to commence on Wednesday, which will determine the progress of the ceasefire, said the official.

The other issue will be the progress of flights from Sanaa to Cairo which is yet to be implemented, said the official who chose to remain unknown.

As part of the truce, the first commercial flight in nearly six years took off from Yemen's rebel-held capital on Monday.

It is expected that another flight will be scheduled for Wednesday.

The government official said if the rebels will agree to compromise then this will give the UN envoy Hans Grundberg time to propose a way forward.

"However, if the Houthis will continue to use humanitarian suffering to achieve political gains, and continue to exploit UN efforts and the government's flexibility, then the war will be prolonged," said the official.

Last week, Mr Grundberg said the truce has had a “considerable positive impact on the daily lives of many Yemenis".

The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015 at the request of the internationally recognised government led by former President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Mr Hadi stepped down in April to make way for a presidential council created after intra-Yemeni political discussions in Riyadh. The Houthi rebels rejected the choice of venue and refused to take part.

Updated: May 23, 2022, 2:45 PM