Yemen to start 3-day ceasefire

It will take effect shortly before midnight on Wednesday, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen announced.

Fire and smoke rise after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site believed to be one of the largest weapons depots on the outskirts of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, on Friday, October 14, 2016. Hani Mohammed / AP Photo
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The warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire which is to take effect shortly before midnight Wednesday, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen announced on Monday.

A UN statement said special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed “welcomes the restoration of the Cessation of Hostilities, which will spare the Yemeni people further bloodshed and will allow for the expanded delivery of humanitarian assistance”.

Mr Ahmed said he had received assurances from all Yemeni parties to cease hostilities at 11.59pm Yemen time on October 19 “for an initial period of 72 hours, subject to renewal”.

He said the warring factions had agreed to follow the terms and conditions of a temporary April ceasefire agreement. He expressed hope that the upcoming cease-fire would lead “to a permanent and lasting end to the conflict”.

Mr Ahmed said the agreement obliges all parties “to allow free and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies and personnel” to all parts of Yemen.

The ceasefire agreement was announced a day after Mr Ahmed met in London with US secretary of state John Kerry and British foreign secretary Boris Johnson as a flurry of diplomacy focused on the impoverished war-torn country.

“This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table,” Mr Kerry said after Sunday’s meeting.

More than 4,000 civilians have been killed and 3 million of the country’s 26 million people have been driven from their homes by the fighting, while hunger has become widespread.

The war in Yemen began in 2014 when Houthi rebels based in the north seized the capital Sanaa.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Arabian Gulf allies launched a campaign of airstrikes against the rebels.

The Saudi-led coalition and the United States are backing the internationally recognised government of president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

* AP