Cairo: Yemen’s warring sides have agreed to extend a nationwide ceasefire by two months, the United Nations said on Thursday. The declaration is a ray of hope for a country stricken by eight years of civil war, although significant obstacles to lasting peace remain.
A ceasefire between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels went into effect for the first time on April 2 – the first nationwide conflict in the past six years of conflict in the Arab world’s poorest nation. However, both sides have repeatedly accused each other of violating the ceasefire.
The declaration, which is the result of UN efforts, was set to expire later on Thursday, hours before the original ceasefire.
“The ceasefire represents a significant change in the course of the war and has been achieved through responsible and courageous decision-making by the parties,” Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, said in a statement.
He said he would mediate talks between the warring parties to strengthen the new ceasefire, and eventually reach a political settlement to end the conflict.
Fighting began in 2014 when Houthi rebels descended from their northern enclave and captured the capital of Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognized government to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the government to power. The conflict eventually descended into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The original ceasefire provisions included reopening roads around the besieged city of Taiz, establishing two commercial flights a week between Sanaa and Jordan and Egypt, and allowing 18 ships to carry fuel to the port of Hodeida. . Both Sanaa and Hodeida are controlled by Houthi rebels.
In recent weeks, commercial flights have resumed from Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, and fuel shipments have arrived. However, the opening of the roads around Taiz remains a contentious issue. The two sides have so far agreed on a roadmap for lifting the blockade on the major city.
Fighting, airstrikes and bombings have subsided during the ceasefire, which began in early April, and rebels ceased their cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two pillars of the Saudi-led coalition Huh.
More than 150,000 people, including more than 150,000 civilians, have died in Yemen’s war. This has now led to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
The Norwegian Refugee Council welcomed the ceasefire extension as a sign of a “serious commitment” to ending the conflict. Council’s Yemen Director Erin Hutchinson expressed hope that the ceasefire could lead to further progress on reopening roads so that humanitarian aid can reach those in need, and so that more displaced Yemenis can return to their homes.
Many Yemenis and observers point to the fact that fighting has subsided, but not completely stopped. According to the Norwegian humanitarian group, the original ceasefire resulted in a more than 50% drop in civilian casualties in the first month.
Nayef al-Hajraf, the head of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, welcomed the ceasefire extension in a statement, expressing hope that it would be conducive to a wider peace in Yemen.
The GCC, a Saudi-based bloc representing Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, formulates economic policies in these Gulf Arab countries, serving as a Sunni-led Arab counterweight to Shiite power Iran. works in.