Yemen truce 'likely to be extended' after warring sides announce 'commitment'

Houthis say they will open a marginal road around Taez, despite pressure to open main road

A taxi vehicle drives on a detour mountain road around Taiz in Yemen. Reuters
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The truce in Yemen that ends on August 2 is likely to be extended, the country's former deputy foreign minister Mustapha Al Noman said, following a statement by the UN that the warring sides had agreed to “consolidate their commitment” to the armistice during Eid Al Adha.

"I believe the truce is likely to be renewed, possibly for a longer time, to give both sides time to negotiate without the pressure of time running out every two months,” Mr Noman told The National.

The Houthis also said on Wednesday they would open a 12 kilometre road known as the 50-60 road to Taez in one direction. The group set “conditions” for opening main roads, as part of the truce, including the “complete withdrawal” of coalition forces from the city.

Yemen’s government has yet to respond to the announcement, but has rejected similar initiatives by the Houthi militia in the past on the basis that the roads proposed are not of strategic importance and would not alleviate the suffering of civilians in Taez.

However, Mr Noman said that any road opening should be welcomed as civilian welfare would benefit from even the slightest improvement in mobility.

“The 50-60 road is not the ideal but shortens the distance of travel from 7 hours to 1 hour,” he said.

There are security concerns with the two other roads that the Houthis have proposed to reopen, said Mr Noman, who has also served as Yemen's ambassador to Bahrain, Canada, India and Spain. He had just returned from Riyadh where he met Yemeni government officials.

“The government fears that these alternative roads will allow the Houthis to push their reinforcements further west towards Taez. I suggested that the government should also reinforce its military there, if they feared that the Houthis would do that too,” he said.

Mr Noman also spoke to the Houthis, who said that their concerns lie with the coalition using the main roads from Taez to expand further northwards.

“I told them that if that’s their worry, they should open the road one way from the north, in territories under their control, to Taez. That way, at least 50 per cent of the people’s fatigue would be alleviated.

“This is when they came up with the 60-50 road. It’s a paved road that goes into Taez from the north but indirectly, through the south-east and into the city from the west.”

A demonstrator holds a sign reading "end Taiz [Taez] siege" demanding the end of a years-long blockade of the area imposed by Yemen's Huthi rebels, on May 25. AFP

UN-brokered talks are continuing between the warring sides in Amman, as the reopening of roads around Taez remains a sticking point among the two sides.

The two-month truce, which came into effect on April 1, was extended in June, and has largely reduced violence on the front lines, although the sides continue to exchange accusations of violations.

Saudi Arabia welcomed the announcement to consolidate truce during eid and stressed the importance of opening the humanitarian crossings in Taez.

“The armistice aims primarily to reach a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen and start the political process between the Yemeni government and Houthis. It also stresses the importance of the Houthis' commitment to the provisions of the current armistice, the speedy opening of crossings in Taez to alleviate human suffering in Taez, and depositing revenue in the Central Bank of Yemen to pay the salaries of civilians,” it said in a statement.

Gulf Co-operation Council ambassador to Yemen Sarhan Al Minaikher earlier told The National that the Yemeni government had been documenting every violation.

The Houthis took over the capital Sanaa in 2014, and Yemen has been at war ever since.

Updated: July 07, 2022, 4:11 PM