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UN: Yemen's warring parties extend truce for two months

UN envoy says he hopes the opposing sides can work out an expanded truce in the coming months
Houthi fighters man a checkpoint in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, on 2 December 2017 (AFP)

Yemen's warring parties agreed to extend a four-month long truce just hours before it was due to expire, the UN envoy announced Tuesday, vowing to "intensify" efforts to secure lasting peace.

The two-month extension will run from 2 August to 2 October, and "includes a commitment from the parties to intensify negotiations to reach an expanded truce agreement as soon as possible", the United Nations special envoy on Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said in a statement.

Middle East Eye reported last week that western officials were optimistic an extension could be reached, as both sides recalculate their positions on the battlefield.

Grundberg said he had received “substantive comments” on a proposal for an expanded truce that he hoped the two sides could work out in the coming months.

“The goal is to reach, in principle, agreements which can be deepened and worked out technically during the next truce,” a western official with knowledge of the talks told MEE last week.

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The Houthis have asked the government to contribute to civil servants' salaries in areas they control and open additional destinations to and from Sanaa International Airport. The Yemeni government has called for the Houthis to lift their siege on the city of Taiz.

Yemen descended into civil war in 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh and a coalition of regional allies, chiefly the UAE, intervened in March 2015 to push the Houthis back.

Hundreds of thousands have died, directly from fighting as well as indirectly, and millions have been displaced, in what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The truce, which was first announced in April and extended for two months in June - has brought much-needed respite from fighting. It has largely held, although rival sides have traded blame over violations.

"The main objective of the current truce continues to be to provide tangible relief to civilians and to create a conducive environment for reaching a peaceful settlement to the conflict through a comprehensive political process," Grundberg added.

More than two-thirds of Yemen's 30 million people need humanitarian aid, a UN official said last month, and the country has been pushed to the brink of famine.

"In the coming weeks, I will intensify my engagements... to ensure the full implementation of all the parties' obligations in the truce," Grundberg said, adding he wanted to "put Yemen on a path to sustainable peace".

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