In a first major breakthrough since the beginning of the Yemeni peace talks in Sweden earlier in December, the country’s warring sides reached a ceasefire agreement that covers the strategic provinces of Taiz and al-Hudaydah.
On December 13, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the agreement and thanked the Yemeni sides and described the agreement as “an important step” towards “future talks to end the conflict.”
“The war in Yemen has gone on for four years. Four devastating years of suffering for the Yemeni people … Thank you for coming here to discuss a better future for Yemen. And what you achieved is an important step,” the al-Jazeera quoted Guterres as saying.
Saudi Arabia ambassador to Yemen Mohamad Al Jaber, who is attending the peace talks in the Swedish city of Rimbo, revealed that the Houthis will withdraw from the city and port of al-Hudaydah and from their remaining positions in Tazi under the agreement.
“Thousands of captives and prisoners will be also released,” Al Jaber added on Twitter.
Guterres said that the the U.N. will play a key role in the port of al-Hudaydah and will facilitate humanitarian efforts all over Yemen. This indicates that the Saudi-led coalition will not be allowed to enter the key western city.
Head of the Houthis delegation to Sweden Mohamad Abd al-Salam praised the agreement and said that next week will likely witness a similar understanding on the Yemeni capital Saana and its airport.
“We have made very large concessions on al-Hudaydah in order to save the Yemeni People,” Abd al-Salam said during a press conference following the announcement of the initial agreement, according to the al-Mayadeen TV.
Last month, the U.S. stepped up its pressure on Saudi Arabia to push forward with negotiations on the conflict in Yemen in the wake of the murder of Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi. Lebanese Hezbollah’s leader had also advised the kingdom to end its war on Yemen in order to find a way out of its current troubles.
From the its own side, the Saudi military has not been able to deliver a devastating blow the to Houthis by military means only. Considering a complicated military and diplomatic situation in which the kingdom’d found itself by the end of 2018, the Saudi leadership may have decided to ease tensions on the southern border of the country.