Yemen parties agree two-month truce, says UN

Sides agree to halt military operations inside the country and across its borders from 7pm on Saturday

A general view shows old buildings in the old city of Sana'a, Yemen, 22 March 2022.  EPA
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Opposing sides in Yemen’s war have agreed to a two-month ceasefire which comes into effect on Saturday, the UN envoy to the country Hans Grundberg said late on Friday.

The Iran-backed Houthi rebels also confirmed the suspension of hostilities.

“I would like to announce that the parties to the conflict have responded positively to a United Nations proposal for a two-month truce which comes into effect tomorrow, 2 April, at 1900 hrs,” Mr Grundberg said.

“The parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders,” said the UN official.

The announcement, made as Ramadan is set to begin, comes as consultations are being held between Yemen's different political factions in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia to revive UN-led peace talks aimed at ending the war.

“The aim of this truce is to give Yemenis a necessary break from violence, relief from the humanitarian suffering and most importantly hope that an end to this conflict is possible,” said the statement.

On Friday, in a Twitter post, Mohammed Abdul Salam, the spokesman and chief negotiator of the Houthis, welcomed the ceasefire.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has been battling the Houthis in support of Yemen's internationally recognised government since 2015, began observing a unilateral ceasefire on Wednesday. That offer had been rejected by the rebels.

Saudi Arabia had proposed the unilateral ceasefire as part of talks it hosted aiming to resolve the war in Yemen. However, the Houthis did not attend the talks.

Last Saturday, the Houthis announced a unilateral initiative that included a three-day suspension of cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and fighting inside Yemen.

The announcement came shortly after the group claimed attacks on a key Saudi oil facility in the Red Sea city of Jeddah, before a Formula One race in the kingdom.

The UN envoy also said the parties agreed that commercial flights will “operate in and out” of Sanaa International Airport. It had effectively been out of service due to the fighting.

Yemen's warring parties further agreed to meet under the UN envoy's auspices to open roads in the besieged southern city of Taez and other governorates.

Mr Grundberg said the ceasefire can be renewed beyond the two-month period with consent of the parties.

He called for regional and international support to ensure the full implementation of the ceasefire.

“For the successful implementation of this truce and for moving to the next steps, it is critical that this support continues in a sustained and focused manner,” Mr Grundberg said.

Yemen's Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak said the government supports the UN envoy's push for a ceasefire.

UN chief Antonio Guterres welcomed the truce, noting that such deals are “always fragile” and “difficult to implement”, as was the case with a 2018 deal between the Houthis and Yemen’s government agreed in Stockholm that later unravelled.

“A halt to the fighting, coupled with the entry of fuel ships, and the easing of restrictions on the movement of people and goods … will contribute to building trust and creating a conducive environment to resume negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict,” the secretary general said.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the chance "to finally secure peace".

US President Joe Biden on Friday said that the UN-backed truce was a step in the right direction.

"This initiative is a long-awaited reprieve for the Yemeni people," he said in a statement released by the White House.

"These are important steps, but they are not enough. The ceasefire must be adhered to, and as I have said before, it is imperative that we end this war."

Earlier on Friday, Mr Mubarak announced the release of the first two fuel ships through the port of Hodeidah under instruction from President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

Hodeidah is under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The Saudi-led coalition has said the Houthis use them as launching points for military and marine operations.

However, some of the outskirts of the port city are under the control of pro-government forces.

Mr Mubarak said he is “affirming the government's firm position in supporting any efforts that alleviate the humanitarian suffering of our people in light with the positive atmosphere the Yemeni talks in Riyadh” .

“I received clear directives from President Hadi to take necessary steps to facilitate all the arrangements for the release of all prisoners, opening Sanaa airport, releasing oil ships via Hodeidah, opening roads in the besieged Taez, to alleviate the suffering caused by the Houthis,” he said.

Updated: April 01, 2022, 9:33 PM