The warring factions in Yemen begin their first ceasefire in 6 years

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Yemen’s warring factions have agreed on a two-month ceasefire that will take effect on Saturday, the first coordinated ceasefire in years that offers hope for a reduction in violence in a war that has rocked the Arab Peninsula and caused a devastating humanitarian crisis.

The ceasefire brokered by the United Nations includes a halt to all attacks inside Yemen and outside its borders; the entry of fuel ships into a rebel-held port; and the resumption of some commercial flights at the international airport in the Yemeni capital, Sana, for the first time in many years.

“The aim of this ceasefire is to give the Yemenis a much-needed rest from the violence, to alleviate the humanitarian suffering and above all to hope that an end to this conflict is possible,” said Hans Grundberg, the United Nations Special Envoy to the Yemen issued a statement announcing the deal on Friday.

President Biden welcomed the ceasefire.

“The ceasefire must be respected and, as I said, it is imperative that we end this war,” he said in a statement. “After seven years of conflict, negotiators must do the hard and necessary work to reach political compromises that can bring about a lasting future of peace for all people of Yemen.”

The ceasefire, due to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday in Yemen, is the first ceasefire agreed to by all sides since 2016. It coincides with the first day of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims.

Officials and analysts welcomed the move but warned that it was at best a first step in a long, complicated process of coming to terms with the many troubles that have rocked Yemen, ravaged its economy and undermined the security of its wealthy, oil-producing neighbors.

The conflict began in 2014 when Houthi rebels seized Sana and much of the northwest of the country, exiling the government. A few months later, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened with a full-scale airstrike in hopes of repelling the Iran-backed Houthis and restoring the government.

But the war fell into a grueling stalemate. Coalition jets destroyed infrastructure and bombed weddings and funerals, killing civilians. The Houthis used child soldiers, planted landmines and launched increasingly sophisticated drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another coalition member. The Yemeni government remained embroiled in fighting with other factions allegedly siding with it.

The United States was not directly involved in the war but is a major supplier of bombs and jets to coalition members and has provided technology and intelligence to Saudi Arabia to help defend its southern border with Yemen.

Diplomats from the United Nations, other Gulf states, and the United States have been trying to broker peace talks for years, efforts that have so far resulted in only short-term reductions in violence.

Many obstacles stand in the way of the reunification of the country and a lasting peace.

The Houthis have a firm grip on Sana, despite years of coalition airstrikes and offensives by the Yemeni army and its allies. The movement has established a de facto administration to govern its territory and is unlikely to willingly relinquish control without demanding concessions that the Yemeni government and coalition may be reluctant to grant.

The coalition’s Yemeni allies are a recalcitrant faction that includes elements of the Yemeni army and armed successors who have fought each other. Yemen’s President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi is widely unpopular and seen as aloof from the suffering of Yemenis, giving him little opportunity to unite ranks.

And Iran has found that adding fuel to the war is an easy way to bog down Saudi Arabia, a practice it may not give up easily.

Nonetheless, the main combatants all seemed to agree with the truce.

Yemen’s foreign minister, Ahmed bin Mubarak, welcomed the ceasefire and said two fuel ships would soon be unloaded at the Houthi-controlled port of Hudaydah, easing a coalition blockade that has sent fuel prices skyrocketing.

He also said limited international flights would soon resume at Sana airport, which the coalition bombed at the start of the war and closed to all but limited humanitarian flights. That has made it much more difficult for Yemenis from North Yemen to travel, including those wounded in coalition strikes who need treatment abroad.

Muhammad Abdel-Salam, a Houthi spokesman, expressed his support for the ceasefire on twitter. Mohammed al-Houthi, a senior Houthi official, wrote that “its credibility will come from its implementation.”

Mr Grundberg, the United Nations envoy, said he would use the ceasefire to hold further talks with the parties “with the aim of achieving a durable ceasefire, addressing urgent economic and humanitarian measures and resuming the political process”.

Shuaib Almosawa contributed reporting from Sana, Yemen.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/02/world/middleeast/yemen-cease-fire.html The warring factions in Yemen begin their first ceasefire in 6 years

Brian Ashcraft

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