Yemen’s warring parties agreed to extend a two-month truce, which expires Tuesday, the United Nations envoy said, despite international pressure for an extended and comprehensive deal that would build on the longest stretch of relative calm in Yemen. more than seven years.
“This extension of the ceasefire includes a commitment by the parties to intensify negotiations with a view to reaching a comprehensive ceasefire as soon as possible,” Yemen Special Envoy Hans Grundberg said in a statement.
Grundberg had pushed for a six-month truce with additional measures, sources had told Reuters, but both sides had grievances over the implementation of the existing truce and mistrust runs deep.
US and Oman officials also liaised with parties to support Grundberg’s proposal after President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia last month, where he announced an agreement following bilateral talks to “deeper and extend” the ceasefire.
Biden welcomes the extension of the truce, White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
“We urge the Yemeni parties to seize this opportunity to work constructively together under the auspices of the UN to reach a comprehensive agreement that will pave the way for a lasting Yemen-led solution to the conflict.” said Kirby.
The conflict between a Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-affiliated Houthis, de facto authorities in North Yemen, has killed tens of thousands of people and starved millions.
Riyadh has sought to end a costly war that has been a point of tension with the Biden administration, which withdrew support for offensive coalition operations. The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The warring parties are both frustrated with the implementation of the ceasefire. The Saudi-backed government blamed the Houthis for failing to reopen major roads in disputed Taiz, while the group accused the coalition of failing to deliver the agreed number of fuel ships in Hodeidah and flights from the capital Sanaa, both held. from the group.
Grundberg said he would intensify cooperation with the parties in the coming weeks to ensure full implementation.
An extended ceasefire, he said, would provide a mechanism to pay public sector salaries, the opening of roads, expanded flights from Sanaa and a regular flow of fuel to Hodeidah. The UN is also pushing for a permanent ceasefire to allow for the resumption of talks for a lasting political solution.
Sanaa resident Sufian al-Thawr said that without further action to address economic problems and secure broader negotiations, the ceasefire would be “just a fighter’s breach” and hostilities would return.
Since 2015, when the coalition intervened against the Houthis, Yemen’s economy and basic services have collapsed, leaving 80% of its population of about 30 million people in need of assistance.
Rising food prices risk causing more people to go hungry as funding shortfalls have forced the UN to cut food rations.
“We want a truce that improves our standard of living,” said schoolteacher Elham Abdullah, who lives in Aden, where the internationally recognized government is based after he was ousted from Sanaa by the Houthis in late 2014.
University student Tah Abdul-Kareem said more was needed, but “it’s still better than going back to war.”