Warring Sides in Yemen Agree to a Two-Month Truce, UN Says

Warring Sides in Yemen Agree to a Two-Month Truce, UN Says

The United Nations said all sides in Yemen’s seven-year war agreed to a two-month truce starting Saturday, a breakthrough in efforts to ease a conflict that’s triggered a humanitarian crisis and roiled the oil-exporting Gulf. 

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has been battling Iranian-backed Houthi fighters in Yemen since 2015, with the war spilling into neighboring countries. The Houthis have escalated attacks on Saudi energy and military facilities in recent weeks, as well as making their first deadly attack on the United Arab Emirates this year.

Riyadh issued a blunt warning late last month that oil exports may be disrupted unless its Western allies do more to help. 

On Friday, Hans Grundberg, UN envoy to Yemen, said that the parties had agreed “to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders.” 

Houthi spokesman and chief peace negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam welcomed the announcement, which comes as the Muslim world prepares for the Ramadan religious holiday. 

Previous attempts to end the fighting have failed, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres acknowledged the fragility of the peace effort.

The cease-fire “opens the door to addressing Yemen’s urgent humanitarian and economic needs and creates a genuine opportunity to restart Yemen’s political process,” he told reporters in New York. “These agreements are always fragile,” he said, urging parties to build on the momentum and make sure “the truce is fully respected.”

Under the terms of the cease-fire, ships carrying fuel will be able to enter the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah port, while commercial flights can operate in and out of Sana’a airport to some destinations in the region.

The truce can be renewed beyond the initial two months with the consent of the parties, the UN said.

Devastating Toll

U.S. President Joe Biden welcomed the agreement, but said the terms of the cease-fire were just a first step. 

“The ceasefire must be adhered to, and as I have said before, it is imperative that we end this war,” Biden said in a statement Friday that thanked Saudi Arabia and Oman for helping broker the accord. 

Within Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, the war has been devastating. The UN estimates that 377,000 people had likely died as a result of the conflict up to the end of 2021. About 24.1 million people -- 80% of the population -- were in need of humanitarian aid and protection, with 14 million in acute need and more than three million displaced from their homes since 2015, according to the world body.

To the north, Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest crude exporter, has suffered regular drone and missile attacks carried out by the Houthis over the past two years. A week ago, an oil storage facility in Jeddah was hit by a barrage of drone attacks.

As the Houthis have stepped up their attacks, Gulf states and Israel have been pushing the U.S. to formulate a security strategy for the Middle East at a time when Washington is attempting to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

The atomic accord failed to address worries over Iran’s ballistic missile capabilities or its support for militias, including the Houthis, they argue.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.