Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed rebels on Thursday agreed to end hostilities around the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a breakthrough in a war that has dragged on for three years and brought the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
Yemen’s foreign minister shook hands with the Houthi rebel envoy, a major gesture capping a week of intense UN-backed negotiations in Sweden.
The warring sides pledged to pull their troops out of Hodeida, which is the largest port of entry for humanitarian and commercial goods to the import-dependent country.
“There is a ceasefire declared for the whole governorate of Hodeida in the agreement and there will be both from the city and the harbor a withdrawal of all forces,” United Nations chief Antonio Guterres said in comments reported by AFP.
A rumored deal to reopen the airport in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, was not announced but is reportedly on the table for a second round of talks scheduled at the end of January.
Houthi rebels overran Sanaa and huge swathes of the country in September 2014, prompting an intervention by neighboring Saudi Arabia on the side of the government less than a year later.
Saudi Arabia views the Shiite Houthis as a proxy of its rival Iran, and it launched a military coalition in Yemen in March 2015 vowing to roll back rebel gains and restore the government to power. The Saudi-led air war and blockades of the coast and airspace have exacerbated Yemen’s longstanding struggle for food security, putting 14 million people at risk of starvation. The United Nations found in August that Riyadh and its partner the UAE could be guilty of war crimes in Yemen.
The talks come in parallel to mounting pressure by US lawmakers on the Trump administration to end support for the Saudi-led war.
Pick up the phone.
Call your Senator.
Tell them you will be watching their vote on ending U.S. involvement in the war in Yemen. pic.twitter.com/KmJhHUOkhd
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) December 12, 2018
Republican senators on Wednesday joined Democrats in sufficient numbers to advance a resolution that would halt US support for its longstanding ally. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the measure Thursday at 1:45 EST.