UN says Yemen warring parties agree to implement new ceasefire

The Saudi Arabia-backed Yemeni government and Houthis have both committed to steps towards a ceasefire, the UN special envoy for Yemen stated on Saturday.

The UN special envoy, Hans Grundberg, in a statement issued by his office, said he “welcomes the parties’ commitment to a set of measures to implement a nationwide ceasefire, improve living conditions in Yemen, and engage in preparations for the resumption of an inclusive political process under UN auspices”.

Grundberg “will now engage with the parties to establish a roadmap under UN auspices that includes these commitments and supports their implementation”, the statement added.

The roadmap, along with a ceasefire, will also include the two sides’ commitment to resume oil exports, pay all public sector salaries, open roads in Taiz and other parts of Yemen, and “further ease restrictions on Sanaa Airport and the Hudaydah port”, the statement read.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, began the war in March 2015 to restore power in Yemen to the impoverished country’s Western- and Riyadh-allied government.

The former Yemeni government’s president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, resigned from the presidency in late 2014 and later fled to Riyadh amid a political conflict with Houthis. The movement has been running Yemen’s affairs in the absence of a functioning administration.

The war and a concomitant siege that the Saudi-led coalition has been imposing on Yemen has, meanwhile, caused the death of tens of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire country into the site of, what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Houthi officials in September visited Riyadh for the first time since the war broke out. That followed a first round of Omani-mediated consultations between Riyadh and Sanaa, running in parallel with UN peace efforts, when Saudi envoys visited Sanaa in April.

The peace initiatives gained momentum after arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to re-establish ties in a deal brokered by China. A permanent ceasefire in Yemen would mark a milestone in stabilising the Middle East.

“Yemenis are watching and waiting for this new opportunity to provide for tangible results and progress towards lasting peace,” Grundberg stated.

“The parties have taken a significant step. Their commitments are, first and foremost, an obligation to the Yemeni people.”

The agreement comes amid a flurry of attacks by the Houthi rebels on key shipping lanes in the Red Sea in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is fighting Hamas fighters.

The Huothis have pledged to attack Israel-linked vessels or ships heading to Israeli ports unless an end is brought to the Israel-Hamas conflict that started on 7 October.

They have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels involving more than 35 different countries, according to the Pentagon.

The attacks by the rebels are imperilling a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade, prompting the United States to set up a multinational naval task force to protect Red Sea shipping.

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