A ceasefire planned for midnight has been postponed in Yemen as violence went unabated in the country’s south. A seven-day truce will instead begin with peace talks in Switzerland on Tuesday morning.
The Saudi-led coalition, which has backed internationally recognised President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the Yemen conflict, announced late on Monday that a long-awaited ceasefire will begin Tuesday morning instead of at midnight as originally planned. The change in plans, reportedly requested by Hadi himself, now coincides with the start of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva.
According to the coalition, Hadi said that his forces and their supporters would lay down their arms at 9am local time on Tuesday, and begin a seven-day truce that will be “renewed automatically if the other party commits to it”. The president’s statement maintained, however, that he “reserves the right to respond in case of any violation”.
A break in the fighting will be a welcome respite for the estimated 80% of Yemenis who require humanitarian aid. The poorest nation in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen has been in a near constant state of violence since rebel Houthis, who have long complained of marginalisation, overtook the capital Sana’a in September 2014.
International terror organisations like Al-Qaeda and “Islamic State” (IS) have taken advantage of the chaos to expand their influence in Yemen. Jihadists have launched attacks on both sides of the conflict.
Violence continues to the last minute
Previous ceasefire attempts in Yemen have not held, and this time both sides have traded allegations that the other does not intend to stick to any peace deal. Both Hadi and the Houthis, many of whom remain loyal to ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh, will be represented at the talks. But the rebels have not indicated their level of determination to achieve a truce.
According to witnesses, even with the prospect of a temporary ceasefire, violence continued between coalition forces and the Houthis in the southern Daleh province all day Monday, and two Hadi loyalists were killed in clashes in the southwestern Taez province.
Hadi’s office decried the death of the “martyrs” – Saudi Colonel Abdullah Al-Sahyan and Emirati officer Sultan Al-Kitbi – who died helping “Yemen’s legitimate authority in regaining control of state institutions”.
es/gsw (dpa, AFP)