The two sides in Yemen’s long-running civil war have agreed to renew their truce for another two months, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen said on Tuesday.
The Saudi-backed government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels first signed their cease-fire agreement in early April.
The monthslong truce is the longest period of relative calm in the country’s past seven years of conflict.
Tuesday’s truce extension was finalized just hours before it was set to expire. It will now run until at least October 2.
“This truce extension includes a commitment from the parties to intensify negotiations to reach an expanded truce agreement as soon as possible,” UN envoy Hans Grundberg said in a statement.
Millions of lives in the balance
Control of the arid, mountainous country on the edge of the Arabian Peninsula has been split between the official government and the Houthis since the Iranian-backed rebels took control of the capital in 2014.
The conflict has triggered a humanitarian crisis with over 4 million people displaced and 19 million facing food shortages.
The Norwegian Refugee Council estimated that in the first month of the truce, the number of civilian casualties fell by half.
The cease-fire agreement also included certain measures such as the reopening of Sanaa airport.
Grundberg had pushed for more measures to be included, as well as a longer extension, but mistrust between the two parties has made continued implementation alone a challenge.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres applauded the truce extension, his spokesman said.
“We very much welcome this positive development. The people of Yemen of deserve a country at peace,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
US President Joe Biden also hailed the extension as a positive step but stressed that more efforts toward peace were needed.
“As I stated last time the truce was extended, however, I recognize that a truce, while an important step and essential to saving lives, is not enough in the long run,” Biden said in a statement.
US officials had joined Grundberg, along with representatives from neighboring Oman, to engage with the two sides.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with the Yemeni head of the presidential government Rashad al-Alimi on Sunday to express his support for the truce renewal.
An Omani delegation also held talks that lasted for three days with the Houthi leadership, including rebel chief Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, which concluded just hours before the renewal agreement was reached.
Both the Houthis and the official Yemeni government blame each other for not fully abiding by the truce agreement.
“In the coming weeks, I will intensify my engagements with the parties to ensure the full implementation of all the parties’ obligations in the truce,” Grundberg said.
ab/aw (AP, Reuters)