US President Joe Biden says Yemen truce has saved 'countless' lives

The 2022 agreement can 'jump-start an inclusive political process' to end conflict, says UN envoy Hans Grundberg

US President Joe Biden said pushing for a comprehensive peace agreement in Yemen has been the focus of his administration’s engagements in the region. AP
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US President Joe Biden said the year-long truce in Yemen had "saved countless lives" and called for all parties to take steps towardsa lasting peace agreement to end the years-long conflict.

Mr Biden's remarks came as other prominent figures such as UN Envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, warned that the country faces a “critical time” a year after the ceasefire dramatically reduced fighting in the country.

"[The anniversary] marks a significant milestone — one year of a truce in the Yemen war. One year that has saved countless Yemeni lives, enabled increased humanitarian assistance to flow throughout the country, allowed Yemenis to travel throughout the Middle East, and set the conditions for a comprehensive peace," Mr Biden said in a statement.

He said maintaining the truce and pushing towards a comprehensive peace plan "has been a main focus of my administration’s engagement with our partners in the Middle East."

Mr Biden said the US was fully committed to regional partners and to preventing both Saudi Arabia and the UAE from facing "Iranian-enabled attacks".

"The fact that cross-border attacks from Yemen have ceased in the last year, as well as air strikes inside Yemen, is yet another positive outcome of the truce," he said.

The US State Department also weighed in on the anniversary of the truce, urging parties to “seize this opportunity to create a brighter future for Yemenis”.

“The truce has paved the way for intensive dialogue on a more comprehensive agreement, and the recent deal to release almost 900 detainees from all sides of the Yemen conflict represents another important step forward,” State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, said.

Mr Grundberg, a Swedish diplomat and UN envoy since 2021, called the UN-brokered truce that took effect in April 2022 a “moment of hope” and said it was largely holding, despite lapsing in October.

“But the truce's most significant promise is its potential to jump-start an inclusive political process aimed at comprehensively and sustainably ending the conflict,” Mr Grundberg said.

About a decade of war in Yemen has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, both directly and indirectly, and set off one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

“There are still significant risks,” Mr Grundberg said, calling to “protect the gains of the truce and to build on them towards more humanitarian relief, a nationwide ceasefire and a sustainable political settlement that meets the aspirations of Yemeni women and men”.

A reconciliation deal announced last month between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which back rival sides in Yemen's war, added to the optimism that started last year with the truce.

Riyadh is leading a military coalition on behalf of the ousted Yemeni government while Tehran backs Houthi rebels, who seized control of the capital in 2014.

Amid renewed deadly fighting and warnings from the rebels, Mr Grundberg said: “The military, economic and rhetorical escalation of recent weeks is a reminder of the fragility of the truce's achievements.”

He urged the government and the Houthis to “sit together and responsibly engage in serious dialogue” that would lead to “a peaceful resolution of the conflict”.

Yemen remains deeply fractured along regional, confessional and political lines, and riven by rival factions including Al Qaeda and ISIS.

“At this critical time, any new temporary or partial arrangement needs to include a clear commitment from the parties that ensures it is a step on the course of a peaceful solution … in an inclusive political process,” Mr Grundberg said.

“Moments like now are fleeting and precarious,” he said.

“More than ever, now is the time for dialogue, compromises, and a demonstration of leadership and serious will to achieve peace.”

Updated: April 03, 2023, 11:23 AM