Biden praises 'critical' Yemen truce extension

US president argues a permanent conclusion to the war is necessary next step

US President Joe Biden said the truce 'has brought a period of unprecedented calm in Yemen'. Bloomberg
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US President Joe Biden on Tuesday welcomed news that the UN-brokered ceasefire in Yemen had been extended for another two months.

“This truce, now going on five months, has brought a period of unprecedented calm in Yemen, saving thousands of lives and bringing tangible relief for countless Yemenis,” Mr Biden said in a statement.

The UN announced on Tuesday that the truce, first established in April between Yemen's internationally recognised government and the Houthi rebels, would continue into October.

Mr Biden thanked US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking for his work with the UN.

The US president also mentioned that the truce in Yemen had been part of talks with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the country in July, during which he had also spoken with the two leaders about finding a permanent solution to the conflict.

Mr Biden stated, however, that there was still more to be done, especially on work to solidify a permanent ceasefire and an agreement that would end the war.

“I recognise that a truce, while an important step and essential to saving lives, is not enough in the long run,” he said.

“Thus, we urge the Yemeni parties to seize this opportunity to work constructively under UN auspices to reach an inclusive, comprehensive agreement that includes steps to improve freedom of movement and expanded salary payments and that paves the way for a durable, Yemeni-led resolution to the conflict.”

The UAE welcomed the extension of the truce and commended efforts by the UN and Hans Grundberg, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, to "reach a permanent ceasefire followed by a political solution to the Yemen crisis in order to enhance prospects for peace and stability in Yemen and the region."

The statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation called on the international community to support adherence to the truce and said it stood by the Yemeni people.

The Saudi government welcomed the renewed agreement, and highlighted the importance of reopening the roads around the city of Taez. In a statement on Wednesday, the kingdom's foreign ministry said the truce's objective is to reach a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen and to begin the political process between the government and the Houthis”.

The UN had previously said it was aiming for a six-month truce to begin on August 2 — but sticking points including the roads around Taez and payment of public employees continue to delay substantive political agreements.

The Houthis insist that employee salaries are paid according to a 2022 payroll list including individuals working for Houthi-run state institutions.

Since the war began Yemen's economy and basic services have collapsed, leaving 80 per cent of the population of around 30 million needing assistance.

Soaring food prices risk tipping more people into hunger as funding shortages have forced the UN to cut food rations.

“We want a truce that improves our standard of living,” schoolteacher Elham Abdullah, who lives in the de-facto capital of Aden, told Reuters.

University student Tah Abdul Kareem said more was needed but “still, it is better than a return to war”.

The conflict in Yemen began 2014, when Houthi forces took over Sanaa, the country's capital, causing the government to flee.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in the war in March 2015 at the government's request.

The UN says more than 150,000 people have died in the violence and millions have been displaced.

Updated: August 03, 2022, 8:26 PM