Cautious optimism in Yemen that truce will hold, improve conditions

The two-month cease-fire in the seven-year civil war would greatly alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, if promises made by the warring parties are delivered, expert says.

 People stand in line to receive vouchers at a food distribution center supported by the World Food Program in Sanaa, Yemen June 3, 2020.  (photo credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS)
People stand in line to receive vouchers at a food distribution center supported by the World Food Program in Sanaa, Yemen June 3, 2020.
(photo credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS)

Sultan Mejally is waiting in a line more than a kilometer long at a gas station in Yemen to fill up his car, which he uses to provide the main source of income to support his family of eight. Mejally says that the United Nations-brokered truce in the country’s civil war may have gone into effect earlier this month, but that the crisis of shortages of oil derivatives and the high prices of everyday commodities brought on by the conflict are still in full effect.

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“The real truce should be in lifting the siege on oil derivatives, paying salaries that have been suspended for five years, and obtaining goods at reduced prices. Without that there is a war without gunpowder,” Mejally explained.
Mejally has been in the fuel line for four days, waiting for the gas tanker to arrive. He had previously worked in Yemen’s Ministry of Education, before leaving his job due to the non-payment of public sector salaries and his need to provide for his family.
The truce in Yemen’s civil war between the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Houthi rebels announced earlier this month by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg entered into force on April 2, with provisions stipulating the cessation of military operations and the opening of the Hodeida seaport, Sanaa airport, and the roads leading to the besieged Taiz governorate The truce also is supposed to allow for the entry of humanitarian aid and oil derivatives through Hodeida. Some Yemeni citizens did not receive the news about the truce with great optimism, saying that the current one is like previous cease-fires, and that, as one person said, “the war profiteers will not allow this war to stop.”

However, some optimists believe that this truce is the last chance to bring peace to Yemen, and that the initiatives that preceded it, including a prisoner exchange and wide-ranging discussions on issues related to a truce, are solid ground for completing peace negotiations.

Newly recruited Houthi soldiers march during the funeral of Houthi fighters killed during recent fighting against government forces, in Sanaa, Yemen, December 6, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)Newly recruited Houthi soldiers march during the funeral of Houthi fighters killed during recent fighting against government forces, in Sanaa, Yemen, December 6, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/KHALED ABDULLAH)

Abdul Razzaq al-Shami, a journalist in the Houthi-run Saba News Agency, said that Sanaa’s de facto Houthi authorities received the initiative “with good faith” and accepted it to ensure the alleviation of the suffering of Yemen’s citizens caused by the siege imposed on them.

The leadership of Ansar Allah, known as the Houthis, “had presented dozens of similar initiatives aimed at opening Sanaa airport and lifting the siege as a first step for a Yemeni dialogue to alleviate the suffering of citizens,” said Al-Shami adding: “We are dealing with this initiative clearly and awaiting the commitment of the other party.”
With great caution on both sides, even after the announcement of the armistice, military mobilization is still ongoing on the war fronts. In addition, news websites of the warring parties are still exchanging accusations of truce violations.
Political researcher Saddam Qassem said that the political parties have reached a stage where they themselves are searching for solutions after seven years of war.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Internationally Recognized Government (IRG) are convinced that the Houthis have become a force on the ground that threatens the security of the kingdom and global oil [market], especially with the Houthi strikes on Aramco oil fields and the global crisis resulting from the Russian-Ukrainian war,” Qassem said.
He added that the Houthi movement will not soon find again this kind of opportunity to obtain international recognition of the group’s authority and for participation in the upcoming political process, if the planned dialogue in conjunction with the armistice succeeds.
Qassem also told The Media Line that this truce would greatly alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people if the promises made by the warring parties are delivered.
Sanaa International Airport is scheduled to open in the coming days for two weekly flights to Cairo and Amman. This airport is the only lifeline for areas under the control of the Ansar Allah group and, because of its closure, Yemenis in these areas must travel for more than 18 hours to reach the two other open international airports in Aden and Seiyun, which are under the control of the IRG. Under the terms of the truce, there is a clause which allows 18 ships carrying oil derivatives to enter the Houthi-controlled seaport of Hodeida, which theoretically would solve the stifling fuel crisis that these areas have been suffering from for years, that caused fuel prices to spike.
Esaad Mahfouz, a housewife and school teacher, says that the news of the truce made many people feel joy for the upcoming peace and for stopping the war.
“I hope the war will stop, salaries that have been suspended for years are paid and prices are reduced,” Mahfouz said.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council called to begin opening seaports for shipments of fuel and consumer goods, and for opening Sanaa airport to commercial flights, in addition to reopening all roads and crossings in Yemen in accordance with the terms of the announced two-month, UN-brokered truce.
Yasser al-Zurqa, an employee in the office of the Presidency of the IRG, said that the government is committed to the armistice and has been seeking for years to establish peace.
“Ansar Allah has violated many of the previous truces and disrupted many opportunities for peace. Sitting at the dialogue table is in the interest of the country and the citizens,” Zuraq said.
“The IRG is still contributing, along with many parties, to alleviating the suffering of citizens and providing a lot of facilities and resources to achieve sustainable peace in Yemen,” he also said.
The announcement of the truce between the warring parties coincided with the dialogue conference on the Yemen conflict held in Riyadh, which included all the Yemeni parties except the Houthis. Ansar Allah said it would not attend a conference in a country that was participating in the war against Yemen; Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of nine countries in support of the IRG. The conference resulted in the announcement of a Presidential Council, which seeks to organize political processes in Yemen and hold a dialogue with Ansar Allah. The conference also presented visions and promises regarding the economy and peacebuilding in Yemen.

In addition, prior to the truce announcement, the parties to Yemen’s civil war had agreed on a prisoner exchange.

The truce agreement included the support of Yemen’s Minister of Defense, the brother of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and military leaders from Saudi Arabia and Sudan. Many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the UN Security Council, welcomed this step and lauded it as an opportunity for a political settlement and an end to the seven-year conflict in Yemen, which has turned the situation in Yemen into the world’s worst ever humanitarian disaster.