Yemen's warring parties commit to measures towards nationwide ceasefire, says UN

'Significant' diplomatic progress comes despite attacks on Red Sea shipping by Houthi rebels

Supporters of Yemen's Houthis raise portraits of their leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi at a rally in Sanaa in June. AFP
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Yemen's warring parties have committed to a set of measures to implement a nationwide ceasefire, improve living conditions in the country and engage in preparations for the resumption of an inclusive political process under United Nations supervision, the world body said on Saturday.

Yemen’s war began when the Iran-aligned Houthi movement ousted the government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. More than 150,000 people have since been killed by the violence and three million displaced.

Saturday's announcement follows a series of meetings with the parties, including the President of Yemen's Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Al Alimi, and the Houthis' chief negotiator Mohammed Abdul Salam, in Riyadh and Muscat, the office of the UN special envoy for Yemen said in a statement.

“Thirty million Yemenis are watching and waiting for this new opportunity to provide for tangible results and progress towards lasting peace. The parties have taken a significant step,” said UN envoy Hans Grundberg.

Mr Grundberg will now engage with the parties to establish a road map under UN auspices that includes these commitments and supports their implementation, the office said.

The UN road map will include the parties’ commitment to implement a nationwide ceasefire, pay all public sector salaries, resume oil exports, open roads in Taiz and other parts of Yemen, and further ease restrictions on Sanaa Airport and the Hudaydah port.

It will also establish implementation mechanisms and prepare for a Yemeni-owned political process under UN auspices.

Mr Grundberg expressed his deep appreciation for the key roles of Saudi Arabia and Oman in supporting the parties to reach this point.

He urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint at this critical time to allow for a conducive environment for dialogue and for agreement on the road map.

The war in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people and caused a dire humanitarian crisis with 80 per cent of its population reliant on aid.

The progress in talks comes after the Iran-backed group, a Hamas ally, attacked several ships in the Red Sea, claiming they were linked to Israel.

The Houthis have said they will continue their attacks on ships believed to be bound for Israel while the Israelis continue their war in Gaza, where more than 20,000 people have been killed.

In the months running up to the Israeli war on Gaza, following the Hamas attacks on October 7 which killed about 1,200 people, there had been relative optimism about the prospects for peace in war-torn Yemen, which has been ravaged by one of the world's largest humanitarian crises.

A UN-brokered ceasefire in April last year reduced fighting to a level that has largely held, despite the truce expiring six months later. In September, Saudi Arabia hosted Houthi representatives for several days of talks, in the first official visit by a Houthi delegation to the kingdom since 2014.

Updated: December 23, 2023, 4:25 PM