Yemen’s truce could be a step toward peace or a warriors’ respite - analysis

The country’s citizens believe the United Nations-brokered agreement came only to help the battling parties get their affairs in order.

 A HOUTHI fighter sits behind sandbags near a checkpoint in Sanaa, Yemen. (photo credit: MOHAMED AL-SAYAGHI/REUTERS)
A HOUTHI fighter sits behind sandbags near a checkpoint in Sanaa, Yemen.

United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, announced on April 1 that he had secured a truce between the parties to the country’s civil war for a period of two months. During the ceasefire, oil tankers were to be allowed to enter the Red Sea port of Hodeida, while Sanaa International Airport and the roads leading to many Yemeni governorates were to be reopened, and peace negotiations were to proceed.

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Now halfway through the truce, no tangible steps have been announced to open the roads to Taiz city and end the Houthi siege there. As for Sanaa airport, flights are still suspended. Many violations and military skirmishes have emerged on the war’s fronts. The list of names of prisoners to be released, which was presented before the announcement of the ceasefire, has proved to be yet another card for exerting pressure and a false hope for thousands of families yearning to see their children.

Many obstacles hover over the implementation of the agreement, and many political analysts have declared that it was not binding on the warring parties and that the chances of its success are slim, adding that there are many violations that could lead to soon announcing its failure. 

Yemenia, the country’s flag carrier airline, announced that on April 24 it would operate the first civilian flight from Sanaa International Airport in six years, to Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport. However, before the plane took off, Yemenia announced that it had not obtained the necessary license, which led to the suspension of flights “until further notice.” 

The Ansar Allah group, or the rebel Houthi movement, the de facto authority (DFA) in the north of Yemen, accused the Saudi-Led Arab Coalition (SLC) and the internationally recognized government (IRG) of Yemen of obstructing the implementation of the truce.

 Military policemen ride on the back of a patrol truck at the site of a funeral of Houthi fighters killed during recent fighting against government forces, in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2021 (credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS) Military policemen ride on the back of a patrol truck at the site of a funeral of Houthi fighters killed during recent fighting against government forces, in Sanaa, Yemen December 6, 2021 (credit: KHALED ABDULLAH/REUTERS)

The IRG, represented by Minister of Information Muammar al-Eryani, responded by saying the problem was caused by the DFA, which issued passports with fake names and documents, and stressed the need to issue passports from recognized government offices.

“It is not logical for a person to travel to Aden Governorate [in the south of Yemen] to obtain a passport and then return to Sanaa on a two-day trip by road,” journalist Samah Lotf told The Media Line, adding that “the United Nations failed to put in place a clear mechanism to implement the terms of the agreement.”

The UN could have, in coordination with the parties, set up an office at Sanaa airport to inspect and operate flights, he said.

“Sanaa airport is the lifeline for many Yemenis who want to get medical treatment, and many did not rejoice over the cease-fire of military operations to the extent that they rejoiced when it was announced that Sanaa International Airport will be reopened,” Lotf explained. 

The terms of the cease-fire stipulate that two round-trip flights per week will be operated from Sanaa during the truce period, one each to Amman and Cairo, respectively, for a total of 14 flights.

Lotf says he considers the failure to operate flights a possible cause of the failure to implement many of the truce’s conditions, chief of which is reopening roads to Taiz Governorate and ending the siege imposed on Taiz city, the country’s third largest after Sanaa and Aden.  

Along with dozens of violations and exchanges of fire between the DFA and the IRG on several fronts – in clear violation of the truce, many military forces in the multiparty civil war continue to mobilize additional fighters and prepare for renewed combat. 

Political analyst Saddam Fateh described the issue as “dangerous.” This is because “this truce, which is the longest among all the previous truces, is the last chance for all parties to bring peace to Yemen,” he said.

“There is an international consensus on the importance of moving toward peace and the Yemeni parties must respond and make concessions for peace in Yemen,” Fateh said. 

All the parties are still treating the truce as a “warrior’s respite,” during which future military operations are prepared, Fateh says. He believes that the IRG should work to create conditions aimed at achieving peace, including releasing prisoners and the payment of salaries to public sector employees who reside in the DFA-controlled areas in the general state budget.

In return, the DFA should open roads and end the blockades they impose on many cities, contribute to the agreements for releasing the war prisoners, and participate in dialogue aimed at ending the conflict in Yemen, Fateh says. The truce came as the result of efforts by the UN special envoy and with the blessing of powerful countries such as the United States and Britain, the UN Security Council and the countries in the region, which give it the highest chances of success, if the parties to the conflict respond properly, he adds.

The military violations and the exchange of fire in the governorates of Marib, Taiz and Al Bayda pose serious obstacles to the cease-fire, Fateh says.

The UN special envoy to Yemen stressed the importance of honoring the terms of the truce.

The Yemeni people do not see any fruits of the announced truce, whether on the political or economic level, and believe it came about only to help the warring parties get their affairs in order. 

Sanaa University academic Ammar Ali told The Media Line he views the UN-brokered cease-fire as a “failed truce” unable to meet the basic hopes of the average Yemeni. 

“The warring parties have long used the war as an excuse for their mistakes. They failed to exploit the truce to offer a clearer picture about the situation to the citizens,” he said. 

“There are thousands of [war] prisoners who are still dreaming of an opportunity to escape the sterile political fray. The ever-increasing cost of living, the nonpayment of [public sector] salaries and the deterioration of many [state] sectors remain the talk of the Yemeni street, which anticipates the truce’s failure more than its success,” Ali said. 

On April 22, an Omani delegation visited the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, to discuss with the DFA ways to make the truce a success. Media, as well as unofficial sources, spoke about reaching an agreement to open roads and end the blockade of Taiz city, but no agreement has yet been announced. 

On the other hand, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed with Rashad al-Alimi, the chairman of the IRG’s Presidential Council, possible ways to support the truce and carry out comprehensive reforms in Yemen, a country suffering from more than seven years of civil war and one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.