Yemen Truce Officially Renewed Until October 2
The United Nations-sponsored truce, which has been the longest Yemen has seen in seven years of war, was officially extended until October 2.
The renewal announcement came after an Omani delegation concluded three-day talks with the Houthi leadership in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. According to Reuters News Agency, the UN envoy had been pushing for a six-month truce with additional measures, but both sides have had grievances about the implementation of the existing truce deal.
Yemen has been at war since the Houthis – an Islamist political and armed movement that emerged in North Yemen in the 1990s – took control of the Yemeni capital city Sanaa in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily on the side of the government in 2015 and continues to conduct air attacks across the country, which have stopped since the onset of the truce.
The initial truce
The initial two-month truce, the first since 2016, began on April 2 and was set to expire on June 2. The UN-brokered deal between a Saudi-led coalition and the rebel Houthi group aligned with Iran was the most significant step yet towards ending a conflict that, according to the UN, has caused the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Al Jazeera reported that, as part of the initial truce deal, “the parties had agreed to halt all military operations inside Yemen and across its borders, operate two commercial flights a week from Houthi-controlled Sanaa to Jordan and Egypt – the first in six years – allow 18 fuel vessels into the port of Houthi-controlled Hodeidah, and open the roads in Taiz and other governorates”.
Despite violations reported by both sides, a general reduction in hostilities occurred, resulting in improved humanitarian conditions: according to the NRC, civilian casualties in Yemen dropped by more than 50 percent in the first month of the truce. Furthermore, it also allowed Yemenis to travel more easily across the country and reduced queues at petrol stations.
Nevertheless, while beneficial for civilians, the truce has not brought the parties closer to a deal that brings the conflict to an end. A military official in Ma’rib told Al Jazeera that “the Houthis had continued to construct new trenches and were mobilizing forces while positioning heavy equipment in different areas of the city”.
Still, after days of negotiations, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg announced that parties to the conflict had agreed to an extension of two months, due August 2.
Concerns Among the International Community as the Truce Was Set to Expire
As the expiration date approached, Grundberg and the UN’s envoy for the United States Tim Lenderking intensified diplomatic efforts to extend it. Last week, Grundberg visited Aden, the seat of Yemen’s government, as well as the respective Saudi and Omani capitals of Riyadh and Muscat. On the other hand, Lenderking flew to Riyadh and Amman, Jordan’s capital that, along with Muscat, has hosted negotiators from Yemen’s warring sides.
While Yemenis recognize the truce’s tangible benefits, it has not helped to build robust rapprochement between the rival sides. “There are no indicators that the warring sides are ready to stop the fighting soon,” Mohammed al-Samei, a Yemeni journalist, told Al Jazeera. “The recurring violations committed since the start of the truce demonstrate the war-prone attitude of the Yemeni rivals, particularly the Houthi group.”
On their side, the Houthis have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the truce has been implemented, accusing the Saudi-led coalition and the recognized government of not fulfilling their obligations.
Political analysts hailed the truce as a diplomatic success but cautioned that the conflict’s roots have not been fully addressed. Indeed, many are doubtful the current break can lead to lasting peace.
“Without disarming all militias in Yemen and restoring the legitimate authority, any truce extension or agreement will not serve the national interest of the country in the long-term,” Adel Dashela, a Yemeni political researcher and author, told Al Jazeera.
He also added that, paradoxically, the truce could be counterproductive if it were to perpetuate the status quo of a de facto divided Yemen: the Houthis in the north and the government and its local allies in the south.