The UN has announced that all warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a three-day ceasefire, due to start on Wednesday night. International pressure is rising after the failure of several previous truce efforts.
The announcement came a day after the United States, Britain and the United Nation's peace envoy to Yemen urged the warring parties in the country's two-year civil war to declare a ceasefire they said could start within days.
UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he had been in contact with the lead negotiator for the rebel Houthi militia, as well as the government of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which operates from the southern city of Aden. Late Monday, he released a statement saying he had received assurances from all Yemeni parties for a ceasefire to begin at 23:59 Yemen time on Wednesday, for an initial period of 72 hours, subject to renewal.
"The president agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire to be extended if the other party adheres to it," Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalik al-Mekhlafi wrote on Twitter.
He added that Houthi rebels, who control the capital Sanaa, would also need to activate a truce-observing committee and end their siege of the country's third city, Taiz.
Earlier Monday, Saudi Arabia - which is leading a military coalition in support of Hadi - also agreed to a new ceasefire.
UN: Ceasefire to bring vital aid relief
Following the agreement, the UN said that it hoped the ceasefire would allow vital aid, such as food and medical supplies, to reach areas of the country that have been cut off by the fighting.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN's Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator, said: "Hopefully this nationwide cessation will provide humanitarian agencies and organizations the opportunity to respond in areas that have been cut off or are hard to reach in all of Yemen."
McGoldrick also said that the ceasefire would hopefully be extended and ultimately lead to a resumption of the peace talks that collapsed in August.
New pressure after funeral bombing
The Saudis have faced heavy criticism following an airstrike earlier this month on a funeral gathering in Sanaa which killed 140 people.
The airstrike, which the coalition blamed on "mistaken information" from its Yemeni allies, killed a number of prominent political figures, drawing condemnation from the UN and prompting the US to announce a review of its assistance to the coalition.
Monday's announcements also follow the firing of missiles at the American destroyer USS Mason in the Red Sea off the war-ravaged country on Saturday, which analysts said came from Houthi-controlled territory. The rebels have denied the attacks.
The Iran-backed Houthis, who are also supported by troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have taken control of much of northern and western Yemen.
The Pentagon said it was "still assessing" what had happened during the third such incident over the past week.
The US launched retaliatory strikes against three radar stations in Houthi-controlled areas after the first two attacks.
The Yemen conflict has killed almost 6,900 people and displaced at least 3 million since March last year, according to UN figures.
mm,dm/cmk (AFP, Reuters)