UN Chief Says Yemen's Warring Sides Agreed on Hodeida Truce
The United Nations secretary general on Thursday announced that Yemen's warring sides have agreed after week-long peace talks in Sweden to a province-wide cease-fire in Hodeida and a withdrawal of troops from the contested Red Sea port city.
Antonio Guterres thanked the Yemeni delegations for what he called "an important step" and "real progress toward future talks to end the conflict" and also said that the next round of talks is planned for the end of January.
The brutal four-year civil war, which pits the internationally recognized Yemeni government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, against the Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis, has made Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis. According to the United Nations, 22 of its 29 million people are in need of aid. The two sides have for months been locked in a stalemated fight over Hodeida.
"This is just the beginning," Guterres said, speaking at the closing ceremony for the talks in the Swedish town of Rimbo. He thanked the Yemeni parties "for coming here to discuss a better future for Yemen."
The U.N.-sponsored talks had low expectations for halting the conflict immediately, but saw some progress with the agreement of a prisoner swap to include some 15,000 people at the start of the talks last week.
Both sides have said they sought to build on goodwill for future talks, although it was unclear how far they have come in agreeing on a draft agreement given to them a day earlier to consider by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths.
Griffiths has said he wants to remove Hodeida from the conflict so that aid deliveries can operate freely.
On Wednesday, the U.N. raised expectations for progress in the talks saying that the U.N. envoy had given both sides a draft agreement for consideration.
The document consists of a set of proposals, including one for a political framework for a post-war Yemen, the reopening of the airport in the capital, Sanaa, and a proposal for Hodeida, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis dependent on international aid.
The government, which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition that has waged war against the Iran-backed Shiite Houthis, said the next round of negotiations could take place as early as January.
The U.N. draft proposal was not released to the media. A draft document obtained by The Associated Press earlier this week showed an initial 16-point proposal to stop all fighting and have all troops withdraw to the city limits of the key port of Hodeida, and later from the surrounding province of the same name.
The war has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 22 of Yemen's 29 million people in need of aid, according to the United Nations. The two opposing sides have for months been locked in a stalemated fight over Hodeida.