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Report: Yemen, Shiite Houthis Agree on Ceasefire

The internationally recognized government of Yemen and Shiite Houthi rebels have agreed on a ceasefire, Yemeni officials have reportedly said on condition of anonymity.

According to the Associated Press (AP), the truce is expected to last “for a week or two before their next round of negotiations.”

The AP adds:

The officials participated in talks on Sunday in Sanaa, the capital, between the rebels and [United Nations] envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. They say talks are expected to restart next month.

The officials said Houthis militias have agreed to implement a UN security council resolution which requires them to hand over weapons and withdraw from territory, including Sanaa.

Prior to the reported ceasefire agreement, Al-Arabiya quoted Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asseri, a Saudi military spokesman, as saying that major Saudi-led combat operations against the Houthis and their allies in Yemen are “coming to an end.”

The U.S.-backed coalition, which began combating the Houthis nearly a year ago, will focus on “long-term” plans to bring stability to Yemen, Gen. Asseri reportedly said. He explained, “The major fighting in Yemen is nearing an end … [and] the next phase is a stage of restoring stability and reconstructing the country.”

The Saudi-led coalition will “stand by the legitimate Yemeni government and offer support until it is able to restore stability in the country,” said the military spokesman.

In March 2015, the Saudi-led alliance began fighting the Houthi rebels and their allies, forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The coalition’s primary goals were to defeat the Iran-allied Houthis and restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power in the capital Sanaa.

Saudi Arabia and the United States have accused Iran of lending military support to the Houthis, an allegation the Shiite group denies.

“Previous attempts to implement a ceasefire in Yemen have failed to take hold on the ground, with each side accusing the other of immediately violating the terms,” notes the AP. “A first round of talks was held in Switzerland in December, but they never resumed.”

The truce comes after a particularly deadly weekend in Yemen in which 57 people were killed, reports Foreign Policy (FP). “Half of those died in fighting between Houthi and loyalist forces in Taiz, which has been an active front in the war for months,” it adds. “Other deadly clashes were reported in Shabwa, and two pro-government troops were killed in an ambush that has been attributed to the Islamic State [ISIS/ISIL].”

A resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered the most dangerous branch of the jihadist group, has capitalized on the bloody civil war in Yemen, emerging as the strongest Islamic extremist organization in the country while the Saudi-led coalition concentrates on defeating the Houthis and the West focuses on the ISIS.

“Asseri and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir have in recent days said that any peace talks can only take place between Hadi and the Houthis, and through the U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed,” according to Reuters. “More than 6,000 Yemenis, about half of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting and airstrikes over the past year, the United Nations says. Millions more have been displaced.”

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