Yemen’s newly extended truce is a “stepping stone” that could pave the way for a lasting ceasefire, UN and Yemeni officials told The National on Friday.
The UN-brokered two-month truce ― which came into effect on April 2, at the start of Ramadan — has been extended for another two months, following talks between the warring sides.
UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg announced the extension late on Thursday.
The extended truce “will consolidate the benefits we have already seen in the last two months,” a UN official close to the talks told The National.
“The truce is a stepping stone that would lead us to more sustainable arrangements on priority issues and to enter into a political dialogue,” said the official.
Since the ceasefire came into effect, fighting has decreased, bringing calm to the country for the first time since the conflict began in 2014.
Iran-backed Houthi rebels ousted the internationally recognised government in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition intervened at the government's request in 2015.
Conditions of the truce have included lifting the Houthi siege of the south-western city of Taez and the surrounding area and resuming regular commercial flights from the rebel-held Sanaa International Airport.
“We hope to see more and immediate progress on the negotiations on opening the roads in Taez and other governorates, the continuation of regular commercial flights and continued unhindered access to fuel and basic services,” the official said.
Going forward, the UN is pushing for more in-depth discussions between the warring sides on key issues such as security and the economy to reach a “durable arrangement that will stay beyond the truce”.
The ultimate goal is the comprehensive political settlement and how to comprehensively end the conflict,” the official said.
Concessions for peace
The government has repeatedly said “it will spare no effort to mitigate the suffering of Yemenis,” Marwan Ali Noman, Yemen's deputy permanent representative to the UN said.
“The government has made huge concessions in order for the truce to succeed and hold, despite the many violations committed by the Houthi militias,” Mr Noman told The National.
“As they say, it takes two to tango,” he said.
Lifting the siege of Taez for example “will be a testimony to the Houthis' intentions and seriousness to bring about peace to Yemen and to make an end to the sufferings of Yemenis,” he said.
Taez fell into rebel hands early in the civil war, which violently escalated after they overran Sanaa and the government relocated to the southern port city of Aden.
Government forces, allied tribes and other rival factions opposing the Houthis have gained a foothold in Taez city centre.
However, the Houthis have entrenched themselves over the years, mainly in the east and north, areas that are home to trade routes and industrial installations.
Mr Noman said the UN and international community have a “moral obligation to exercise maximum pressure on the Houthis” to fulfil their end of the deal.
The extension of the truce was welcomed by the international community, as efforts to end the war have gained momentum in recent months.
UN Security Council members on Friday agreed on a statement to welcome the truce's extension, saying it had brought “real and tangible benefits” for Yemenis and led to a drastic fall in civilian deaths.
The council urged Houthi rebels to “act with flexibility” and reopen roads around Taez, and expressed hopes that the truce could lead to an “inclusive, comprehensive political settlement” that ends Yemen’s war for good.