Yemen: Warring sides agree new ceasefire measures, says UN

July 15, 2019

New ceasefire measures have been agreed between the Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-backed government in Yemen, the UN has said.

Both sides are said to be keen to reduce hostilities following talks on Sunday and Monday, with millions having been left on the brink of famine as a result of the four-year war.

The discussions were held on a UN ship in the Red Sea amid a string of recent ceasefire violations that have helped add to a death toll that stands in the tens of thousands.

The UN has described the situation as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

In a statement, a spokesman said: "They agreed on a mechanism and new measures to reinforce the ceasefire and de-escalation, to be put in place as soon as possible."

Representatives of Yemen's government and the Houthi rebel movement attended the meeting, with a UN committee having been set up to oversee the ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from the port city of Hodeidah.

The committee - chaired by Danish Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard - wants UN personnel to be able to safely operate in the city without fear of conflict.

Hodeidah has been controlled by the rebels since 2014 and is the main entry point for food and aid, acting as a lifeline for food deliveries to people across the country.

Having secured an agreement between the two sides for soldiers to leave the city, the UN statement said the arrangement now needed the approval of political leaders.

It said they would also have to agree on "local security forces, local authority and revenues".

Optimism over periods of ceasefire in Yemen has previously been short-lived, with a lasting end to the conflict having remained well out of reach since 2015.

Fighters took months to start leaving Hodeidah after a peace deal was agreed in Stockholm back in December, and the government accused the rebels of sidestepping the truce by giving their positions to allied troops.

The latest talks were the first time the sides had met since February.

They came after a group campaigning against the UK selling arms to Saudi Arabia won a landmark legal challenge against the British government.

Campaign Against Arms Trade argued that the decision to continue to license military equipment for export to the Gulf state was unlawful as there was a clear risk that the arms might be used in a serious violation of international humanitarian law.

Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition of forces in Yemen as it tries to restore what it says is the country's legitimate leadership and drive out the rebels backed by its regional adversary, Iran.

According to the World Health Organisation, tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict and millions more have been forced from their homes, with 24.1 million left in need of aid.

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