EU 'deeply regrets' Houthi refusal to open roads to besieged Yemeni city

Allowing access to Taez, where residents face humanitarian disaster, had been central to ceasefire

Children in a remote village in the north-western Yemini province of Saada. A ceasefire in the country has largely held. EPA
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The EU said on Wednesday it “deeply regrets” the refusal by Yemen’s Houthi rebels to reopen roads to the south-western city of Taez, where residents are on the verge of famine.

A ceasefire between Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the Iran-backed rebels at the start of Ramadan in April has largely held, but is due to end on August 2.

UN special envoy Hans Grundberg has been shuttling between the two sides in an effort to extend the truce.

The agreement has seen the resumption of commercial flights from Sana'a International Airport, in the rebel-held capital, for the first time since 2016.

However, reopening routes to the rebel-blockaded city of Taez, which has a population of about 600,000, has proved the thorniest problem in implementing the fragile ceasefire.

The EU said it “deeply regrets a rejection by the Houthis of the latest proposal by the UN special envoy (UNSE) on road reopening, notably around Taez”.

“The reopening of roads is a crucial humanitarian element of the truce, along with fuel shipments through the port of Hodeidah and commercial flights from [and] to Sanaa,” said the EU.

It urged the Houthis “to reconsider and accept the UNSE’s proposal”.

However, the Houthis said this week they reject a deal to renew the truce.

For the EU, the ceasefire has “broken the diplomatic stalemate and brought unprecedented tangible benefits to Yemenis, and this momentum should not be lost”.

The UN brokered a two-month truce, which first came into effect on April 1, and was extended in June. This is the first truce in six years of the Yemen conflict.

While both sides have accused each other of breaching the ceasefire, overall, violence has been reduced significantly.

It has brought calm to most parts of the country for the first time since 2014, when the Houthis ousted Yemen's government.

This prompted an intervention by a Saudi-led coalition at the internationally recognised government's request in 2015.

Yemen is experiencing one of the world's worst humanitarian crises with 24 million people — 80 per cent of the population — requiring emergency food aid.

Updated: July 20, 2022, 9:09 AM
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