Yemen warring parties agree April 10 ceasefire
UNITED NATIONS – Agence France-Presse
AFP photoYemen’s warring parties have agreed on a ceasefire from April 10 followed by peace talks, a U.N. envoy said March 23, raising hopes of a breakthrough in a conflict that has devastated the country.
On another front, a U.S. air strike on an al-Qaeda training camp killed at least 40 fighters in a major blow to the jihadists who have been expanding their territory in the impoverished Arab state.
Violence has escalated in Yemen since September 2014, when Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels stormed the capital Sanaa and forced the internationally recognized government to flee south to the second city of Aden.
“The parties to the conflict have agreed to a nationwide cessation of hostilities beginning April 10 at midnight in advance of the upcoming round of the peace talks, which will take place on April 18 in Kuwait,” U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told a news conference in New York.
More than 6,300 people have been killed in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition - which includes Kuwait - began an air war in March last year to push back the Houthi offensive.
Previous U.N.-sponsored negotiations between the Houthis and government officials failed to reach a breakthrough, while a ceasefire went into force on Dec. 15, 2015 but it was repeatedly violated and the Saudi-led coalition announced an end to the truce on Jan. 2.
Only last month the U.N. envoy warned that the warring parties were unable to agree on terms for a new round of peace talks, but those divisions appear to have been overcome.
“The aim is to reach an agreement which will end the conflict and allow the resumption of an inclusive political dialogue,” Cheikh Ahmed said March 23, telling reporters that he had held intense discussions with both the government and the rebels.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2216 calls for the rebels to withdraw from seized territories and disarm.
The envoy said he hoped the cessation of hostilities would allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access to millions of suffering Yemenis.
The year-long coalition campaign has faced criticism over civilian casualties.
The U.N. said earlier this month that Saudi-led raids were responsible for the vast majority of the estimated 3,200 civilian deaths in the Yemen war.
The U.S. air strike on March 22 in Hajr in the vast southeastern province of Hadramawt killed at least 40 militants and wounded 25 more, a provincial official told AFP.
A tribal source, who confirmed the toll, said the casualties were new al-Qaeda recruits training at the camp.
Dozens of al-Qaeda militants were seen rushing to hospital to donate blood, according to residents.
Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is regarded by Washington as the network’s most dangerous branch, and has carried out deadly attacks on the West in the past.