Cairo - The United Nations said Tuesday that the parties to the Yemen war have agreed to extend a truce in place for the past four months for an additional two months, a move humanitarians welcomed.
'This truce extension includes a commitment from the parties to intensify negotiations to reach an expanded truce agreement as soon as possible,' U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement announcing the extension.
The initial two-month truce, which began April 2 at the start of the holy month of Ramadan, was renewed in June for an additional two months. It was due to expire August 3 when the latest extension was announced.
The truce between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels has brought some relief to the population, 19 million of whom the U.N. says are going hungry and 160,000 who are 'on the brink of famine.'
FILE - People sit under posters of Houthi leaders in Sanaa, Yemen, April 7, 2022.
During the initial pause in fighting, civilian casualties decreased, fuel deliveries through the main port of Hodeida increased, and some roads reopened. The first commercial flights in nearly six years also resumed from Sana'a international airport.
Grundberg said he will intensify his efforts with the parties to reach an expanded truce agreement that would include paying civil service salaries and civilian pensions, opening roads in Taiz and other governorates, and adding more destinations to and from Sana'a airport.
'An expanded agreement would also provide an opportunity to negotiate a nationwide cease-fire, humanitarian and economic issues, and to prepare for the resumption of the Yemeni-led political process under U.N. auspices to reach a sustainable and just peace,' the envoy said.
Humanitarians welcomed the development but said the Yemeni people need more.
'The truce has seen civilian deaths resulting from airstrikes reach an all-time low. Reduced violence has allowed the delivery of aid to more people in need, and commercial flights from Sana'a have resumed, providing some respite to Yemenis and stimulating the local economy,' said International Rescue Committee Yemen Deputy Director of Operations Zeleke Bacha. 'However, Yemenis still face desperate challenges. Food is increasingly unaffordable, as a result of rising unemployment and inflation.'
Russia's invasion and war in Ukraine has also hurt Yemen, as nearly half of its wheat imports come directly from those two countries.
The U.N. children's agency, UNICEF, also welcomed the truce renewal, but said at least 113 children have been confirmed killed or maimed since it initially began on April 2.
'More needs to be done to protect children in Yemen,' UNICEF's Yemen representative Philippe Duamelle said. 'UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict to fully respect the terms of the truce and continue efforts towards a sustainable peace in Yemen. All parties to the conflict must protect civilians wherever they are and spare no effort to clear land mines and unexploded ordnances.'