Yemen’s warring parties agree ceasefire in Hodeidah, says UN chief

Talks in Sweden between Yemen’s warring parties on Thursday led to a major breakthrough in blunting a devastating war that has killed thousands and driven the country to famine, with both sides agreeing on a ceasefire in a key port that acts as a lifeline for millions.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced that the Iran-linked Houthi rebels, who control Hodeidah port, had reached a ceasefire there with the Saudi-led coalition that was massing troops in the Red Sea city ahead of a final push into the port. 

In a statement released near the end of peace talks this week in Sweden, Mr Guterres said that UN troops would be dispatched to Hodeidah, where the organisation will also help distribute much-needed aid. 

The ceasefire will hold both in the city of Hodeidah, which is the principal life-line for two-thirds of the country, and the broader province, the UN chief added.

A "mutual understanding" was also struck in the nation’s embattled third city of Taiz, although few details were released .

There was no agreement, however, on ending the fighting elsewhere in Yemen.

Nor has a deal been struck on a political framework or the reopening of the rebel-held Sanaa airport. Further talks on those subjects are due in early 2019. 

Rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam (C) holds a press conference together with members of the delegation following the peace consultations in SwedenCredit:

Mr Guterres thanked both delegations, saying "real progress" had been made towards ending the conflict.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt had flown to Sweden on Thursday to back mounting pressure on both sides to reach an agreement.

He met the Houthi rebels for the first time when he hosted meetings with them and the Saudi-backed government, the Foreign Office said in a statement.

“Today’s agreement in Stockholm between the Yemeni Government and the Houthis is an important step towards ending the conflict in Yemen – the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.

“We have been working with the United Nations to bring the two sides in this terrible conflict together for the first time in years, including through constructive talks with key Saudis and Emiratis during my recent visits, and regular discussions with Oman."

The US senate voted on Wednesday to press ahead with a resolution ending US military support to the Saudis and their allies in Yemen.

On Wednesday, the UK-based observer group Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLEDP) said the official UN death toll of 10,000 was likely a vast underestimate. Its own survey put the toll at more than 60,000. 

The war, launched by Saudi Arabia and its allies in 2015 after the Houthis overran much of Yemen, has come under increased scrutiny in recent months, particularly after Saudi agents murdered columnist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul government.

The US senate voted on Wednesday to to end US military support to the Saudis and their allies in Yemen, a significant blow to President Trump who has stood firmly by Riyadh.

All the main Yemeni factions, and Saudi-backed coalition, have been accused of rights violations including torture. The Saudi-led coalition sparked an international outcry following an air strike on a bus that killed dozens of children in August.

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