A week-long cease-fire in Yemen’s civil war is scheduled to begin on Monday, followed on Tuesday by peace talks in Switzerland brokered by the United Nations.
“Based on what had been agreed upon, there will be a halt of the aggression on the 14th of this month,” said Mohammed Abdul-Salam, a spokesman for the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents, as quoted by Sky News.
“We have agreed to the ceasefire to lift the suffering of our people and to deliver humanitarian assistance to them,” Abdul-Salam added, according to the Washington Post.
“We are going to the talks with serious intentions and we hope that the other side to abide by that,” said Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek-al-Mekhlafi, who will represent the deposed government in Switzerland.
The Houthi insurgency was able to drive the elected government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile, leading to a major escalation when Saudi Arabia and several Sunni partner nations began airstrikes on the Shiite Houthi rebels. Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and military forces loyal to him have sided with the Houthis.
Sky News notes this will be the second cease-fire in the conflict. The first ended with both sides accusing each other of violations, within a matter of hours. It will also be the second round of peace talks, after talks in June ended in a stalemate.
A potential sticking point likely to return in the new talks is that Hadi’s government insists the Houthis obey a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring them to withdraw from all captured territory and return weapons they have seized during the insurrection. The Houthis have not yet indicated a willingness to abide by this resolution, although Reuters reports both sides have agreed to “a draft agenda and ground rules for the talks.”
The Washington Post notes that intense fighting continues to rage on the eve of the cease-fire, bringing the death toll to roughly six thousand, about half of them civilians. Damage to Yemen’s economic infrastructure has also been extensive.
“More than 27 fighters from both sides were killed in Taiz and Lahj provinces late Friday and Saturday, while 16 pro-government fighters and 10 Houthi fighters were killed in Jawf province, according to independent security officials. The Saudi-led coalition also continued to carry out air strikes against Houthi positions, according to the officials,” the Post reports.
Another dangerous wild card in Yemen is the Islamic State. ISIS has been trying to establish a foothold in the war-torn country with a string of bloody attacks, most recently a car bombing last week that killed the governor of the major city of Aden and six of his bodyguards. The Islamic State’s rival and progenitors, al-Qaeda, already controls much of the southern half of the country.