Yemen’s Warring Parties Agree Only to Renew Two-Month Truce, U.N. Says

ADEN (Reuters) —
Armed Houthi followers sit next to a coffin of a Houthi fighter killed in recent fighting against government forces in Yemen’s oil-rich province of Marib, during a funeral procession in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 20, 2021. (REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo)

Yemen’s warring sides agreed to renew a two-month truce that is expiring on Tuesday, the United Nations envoy said, despite international pressure for an extended and expanded deal that would build on the longest stretch of relative calm in over seven years.

“This truce extension includes a commitment from the parties to intensify negotiations to reach an expanded truce agreement as soon as possible,” Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement.

Grundberg had been pushing for a six-month truce with additional measures, sources had told Reuters, but both sides have had grievances about implementation of the existing truce deal first agreed in April and mistrust runs deep.

U.S. and Omani officials had also been engaging with parties to back Grundberg’s proposal following a visit by President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia last month, where he announced following bilateral talks an agreement to “deepen and extend” the truce.

Biden, welcoming the renewal of the truce, said that while it was an important step and essential to saving lives, it “is not enough in the long run.”

“We urge the Yemeni parties to seize this opportunity to work constructively under U.N. auspices to reach an inclusive, comprehensive agreement that includes steps to improve freedom of movement and expanded salary payments and that paves the way for a durable, Yemeni-led resolution to the conflict,” he said.

The conflict, pitting a coalition led by Saudi Arabia against the Iran-aligned Houthis, de facto authorities in north Yemen, has killed tens of thousands and caused millions to go hungry.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday the truce primarily aimed to establish a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and “start the political process” between the internationally recognized government and the Houthis.

It urged the movement to comply with terms regarding port revenues and to swiftly reopen roads in disputed Taiz, effectively under Houthi siege.

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