Prospect of war in Yemen looms again as ceasefire talks break down

Yemen war. Editorial credit: akramalrasny /

Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s Ansarullah Houthi movement have failed to reach an agreement to extend a nationwide ceasefire, raising the prospect of renewed war.

The United Nations’s envoy to Yemen called on all sides to refrain from acts of provocation as the talks continue, after an October 2 deadline for extending the agreement expired. The UN-backed truce initially took effect in April.

Hans Grundberg said he “regrets that an agreement has not been reached today.” He did not call out the Houthis by name for failing to agree to his proposal but thanked the internationally-recognised government for “engaging positively” in talks to extend the truce. He called on leaders to continue to try and reach an agreement.

“I urge them to fulfill their obligation to the Yemeni people to pursue every avenue for peace,” he said.

The envoy warned last week that the risk of return to war was a real possibility.

The foreign minister for Yemen’s internationally-recognised government in exile placed the blame for the truce ending on the Houthis. Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak said that Houthis had obstructed the ceasefire and gone against the interest of the Yemeni people.

“The government made many concessions to extend the truce,” he said.

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There was no immediate comment from the Houthis, but on Saturday they said that discussions around the truce had reached a “dead-end,” and that they were continuing to advocate for a full opening of the Sanaa airport and lifting of the blockade on the key port city of Hodeida.

The group hosted a large military parade last month, showcasing rockets and large weaponry.

April’s truce had originally established a partial opening of the Sanaa airport and the Red Sea port of Hodeida. The ensuing months have seen flights start again from the capital’s airport to Jordan and Egypt.

the truce also called for lifting a Houthi blockade on Taiz, the country’s third-largest city. But little progress has been made there after talks aimed at reopening local roads stalled. Another sticking point is how the salaries of public employees will be funded, many of whom have not been compensated for years.

The conflict began in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition, including the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally-recognised government to power.

Many analysts say the fighting, now seven years old, has turned into a proxy war: Iran-backed Houthi rebels are pitted against a multinational coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands, displaced more than one million people and given rise to cholera outbreaks, medicine shortages, and threats of famine.

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