Tuesday 22 January 2019

Ceasefire in key port city raises hopes for Yemen peace talks

Yemen's foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (L) and rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam (R) shake hands under the eyes of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C), during peace talks taking place at Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo, north of Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Yemen's foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani (L) and rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam (R) shake hands under the eyes of United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (C), during peace talks taking place at Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo, north of Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Bel Trew in Sanaa

Warring sides in Yemen have agreed to a ceasefire in the flashpoint port city of Hodeidah and will withdraw all troops "within days", marking a key breakthrough in the first peace talks in two years.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres announced the agreement at the end of landmark talks in Sweden yesterday, calling it "an important step" and "real progress toward future talks to end the conflict".

Yemen's foreign minister and a leader in the rival Houthi rebel group then shook hands in a highly symbolic gesture that has raised hopes for progress on ending the nearly four-year war.

Bringing a halt to fighting in Hodeidah had been a key aim going into the UN-sponsored talks, which began a week ago in the Swedish town of Rimbos. Around 80pc of Yemen's food supplies come through the city's port. Humanitarian groups had warned continued fighting there would cause a famine in which as many as 13 million could starve to death.

Mr Guterres said the UN would play a "leading role" in supervising the Red Sea port, which is currently controlled by the rebels. He said all sides would withdraw from the area "within days".

"In the harbour the UN will assume a very important monitoring role and in the city the order will be maintained by the local forces," he said.

A "mutual understanding" on Yemen's third city of Taiz, the scene of some of the most intense battles in the conflict, would also be part of the deal.

There, humanitarian corridors will be open to the city, which had been intermittently under crippling Houthi siege during the conflict.

Mr Guterres also announced a new round of talks would take place at the end of January.

Irish Independent

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