UN has `positive indications’ for extending truce in Yemen

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations said on the eve of Thursday’s expiration of a two-month truce in Yemen that it has received “preliminary, positive indications” from the warring parties about extending the nationwide cessation of hostilities.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that Hans Grundberg, the U.N. envoy for Yemen, “is involved in intense work on ensuring the renewal of the truce.”

Yemen’s internationally recognized government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels accepted the U.N.-brokered two-month truce at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on April 2. It has brought the first nationwide lull in fighting in the six-year civil war in the Arab world’s poorest country.

On a positive note, Dujarric welcomed the first commercial flight from the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, to Cairo earlier Wednesday. This followed last month’s resumption of flights from Sanaa to the Jordanian capital, Amman.

The Sanaa-Cairo flight was the seventh from the capital, and Dujarric said a total of 2,495 Yemenis have traveled between Sanaa, Amman and Cairo so far.

Reopening Sanaa airport to commercial flights was part of the two-month truce agreement.

But the U.N. announced Saturday that the warring parties did not reach an agreement on another provision of the agreement during three days of talks in Amman — lifting a blockade by the Houthis of the country’s third largest city, Taiz.

The question of the blockaded city is key to extending the nationwide ceasefire.

Grundberg said in a statement Saturday that a proposal had been floated in what he described as “an initial round of discussions” for a phased reopening of roads in Taiz and elsewhere, which would help facilitate aid deliveries and the movement of suffering Yemenis.

He urged the government and Houthis to conclude internal deliberations and deliver “positive results to the Yemeni people” in ongoing talks in Amman.

Dujarric said Wednesday that Grundberg was making “intense” efforts for a truce renewal. “We have received preliminary, positive indications from the parties at this point,” he said.

Yemen has been engulfed in civil war since 2014, when the Houthis took Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia. A Saudi-led coalition that included the United Arab Emirates and was backed at the time by the United States, entered the war months later, seeking to restore the government to power.

The conflict created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world while becoming a regional proxy war in recent years. More than 150,000 people have been killed, including over 14,500 civilians.

Two weeks ago, Grundberg said that since the truce began, “fighting has sharply reduced with no aerial attacks emanating from Yemen across its borders and no confirmed airstrikes inside Yemen.”

Dujarric said humanitarian needs in Yemen remain high despite improvements since the truce, with some 19 million people expected to face hunger this year, including more than 160,000 who will face famine-like conditions.

“Aid agencies need $4.28 billion to assist 17.3 million people across the country this year,” but only 26% of that amount has been funded, he said, urging donors to pledge money and turn pledges into cash.