UN experts urge warring sides to renew truce in Yemen

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UN officials on Thursday urged the warring parties in Yemen to renew their truce after seven years of devastating war between the Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthis.

The truce, in effect since April 2 and extended on an emergency basis twice, expired on October 2 without the Yemeni government and Houthis reaching an agreement to roll it over for another six months.

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“As I continue to work with both sides to find solutions, I urge them to demonstrate the leadership and flexibility required to reach an extended and expanded agreements,” pleaded UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg.

The Swedish diplomat, speaking via video to the UN Security Council, welcomed the fact that “the parties have shown restraint since the expiration of the truce on October 2, as we have fortunately not witnessed any major escalation.”

The conflict in Yemen pits government forces, supported since 2015 by an Arab coalition, against the Iran-backed Houthis.

The Houthis control the capital Sanaa and large swathes of territory in the north and west of the country.

Delegations from the Arab Coalition and the Houthis have visited detained prisoners of both sides, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) cited Arab Coalition Spokesperson Brig. Gen. Turki al-Malki as saying on Wednesday.

The visits are within the context of a goodwill initiative and aims to further strengthen confidence amid efforts to extend the truce in Yemen, al-Malki said.

Speaking from Yemen, the UN assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, Joyce Msuya of Tanzania, denounced “the havoc that this conflict has wreaked on civilians.”

“For their sake, I urge the parties to avoid any escalation in violence and to engage with the special envoy to agree on an extended and expanded truce,” she said.

Speaking from the Yemeni coastal area of Hodeida, Msuya said that she met “Yousef, a 12-year-old boy who lost both of his legs after stepping on a landmine a few weeks ago. He had to travel two long hours to get to the hospital, and now... will need lifelong support and assistance.”

The conflict in Yemen has plunged it into one of the world’s worst humanitarian tragedies, which successive truces have helped to alleviate, according to humanitarian organizations.

According to the UN, the war has left hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced, with a large part of the population close to famine.

Talks on a final peace accord have stalled.

Read more: Saudi Arabia’s FM says efforts to extend Yemen truce ‘still in place’

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