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Yemen warring parties agree to implement new ceasefire: UN

Roadmap to peace under UN auspices would include improving living conditions in Yemen and preparing for the resumption of an inclusive political process
Supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels raise portraits of their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi during a rally in the capital Sanaa on 3 June 2022 (AFP)
Supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels raise portraits of their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi during a rally in the capital Sanaa on 3 June 2022 (AFP)

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

The Houthis, who control north Yemen, have been fighting against a Saudi-led military alliance since 2015 in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and left 80 percent of Yemen's population dependent on humanitarian aid.

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 said.

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 said.

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The Saudi-led military coalition intervened more than eight years ago against the Houthi movement after it ousted Yemen's internationally recognised, Saudi-backed government from Sanaa, the capital, in 2014.

The Saudi-backed government's foreign ministry welcomed the special envoy's statement on "the efforts made to reach a road map under the auspices of the United Nations to end the war caused by the Houthi militia", Yemeni state news agency SABA reported.

The Houthi movement did not immediately comment when contacted by Reuters

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.

Red Sea attacks

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 said.

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"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 militants.

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.

The Houthi "military actions hinder progress towards a peaceful resolution", Mohammed Albasha, a senior Middle East analyst for the US-based Navanti Group, told AFP.

"The Houthis have transitioned… to becoming aggressors targeting civilian assets," he said.

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