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Critical ceasefire agreed for Yemen port
UN chief Antonio Guterres announced on Thursday a series of breakthroughs in talks with rivals in the Yemen conflict, including a ceasefire for a vital port.
In a highly symbolic gesture on the seventh and final day of the UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden, Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani and rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam shook hands to loud applause.
Handshake at Sweden’s Consultation Closureالمصافحة في ختام مشاورات السويد pic.twitter.com/I8DZk4lUNrAmat Alsoswa (@AlsoswaAmat) December 13, 2018
However, a number of issues remain unresolved and a new round of talks with take place at the end of January, Guterres said.
The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 14 million Yemenis now at the brink of mass starvation.
Guterres, who flew in to Sweden late Wednesday, announced that the government and Huthi rebels had agreed on a ceasefire in the port of Hodeida, the main entry point for imported food and aid.
“There is a ceasefire declared for the whole governorate of Hodeida in the agreement and there will be both from the city and the harbour a withdrawal of all forces,” he told reporters.
Pullout ‘within days’
UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, who is due to brief the Security Council on Yemen on Friday, said the pullout should take place “within days”.
Guterres said the United Nations would play a “leading role” in monitoring the Red Sea port, which is currently controlled by the rebels, and facilitate aid access to the civilian population.
In addition, the rivals have reached a “mutual understanding” on Yemen’s third city of Taiz, the scene of some of the most intense battles in the conflict.
But no deal has been reached on the future of the airport in the capital Sanaa or on economic measures that are vital to help the country’s population.
The January talks will focus on a framework for negotiations on a political process, which Guterres said was the only solution to the conflict.
International pressure has been mounting to halt the fighting between the Iran-linked Huthis and the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, backed by Saudi Arabia and its military allies, with the US Senate, Saudi Arabia and the UAE honing in on the fragile talks.
The warring parties have been in the rural Swedish village of Rimbo for a week to try to hammer out agreement on a number of key issues.
The rebels control both Hodeida and the capital Sanaa while the Saudi led-military coalition controls Yemen’s maritime borders and airspace.
Sanaa airport has been closed to commercial flights for nearly three years and Griffiths said its fate would be discussed at the next round.
“It’s clear and it’s public knowledge that starting point is opening up to commercial flights, maybe domestic at first, and eventually (international),” he added.