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Yemen: UN announces 2-month truce between warring sides

The Houthis and Saudi-backed government have agreed to a cease-fire to coincide with Ramadan. The eight-year war has caused a humanitarian crisis.

Policeman inspect the site of a Saudi-led airstrike

Thousands of people have been killed in the war in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world

The two sides in Yemen's ongoing conflict — the Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels — will put down their weapons for two months, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said on Friday.

The truce will begin Saturday evening, which also marks the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Grundberg said in his statement that "the parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders."

The agreement comes two days after an announcement by Saudi Arabia that it would cease hostilities during Ramadan.

What did the UN envoy say?

The UN statement said that, as part of the agreement, fuel ships would be allowed to dock at the port city of Hudaydah. The lack of port access had been the reason behind the Houthis' rejection of Riyadh's move for a cease-fire on Wednesday.

Grundberg said the truce could be extended and urged all parties to seek an end to the war.

"I plan to intensify my work with the parties with the aim to reach a permanent cease-fire, address urgent economic and humanitarian measures, and resume the political process," he said.

"The aim of this truce is to give Yemenis a necessary break from violence, relief from the humanitarian suffering and most importantly hope that an end to this conflict is possible," the UN special envoy added.

US President Joe Biden welcomed the news in a statement, saying: "This initiative is a long-awaited reprieve for the Yemeni people."

"These are important steps, but they are not enough. The ceasefire must be adhered to, and as I have said before, it is imperative that we end this war," he added.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also welcomed the cease-fire, calling it a "window of opportunity to finally secure peace and end the humanitarian suffering."

World's worst humanitarian crisis

The war in Yemen — and the resulting humanitarian catastrophe — began in 2014, when the Houthis took control of the capital, Sanaa.

They ousted President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, forcing him into exile. In March 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched a campaign to restore Hadi's government to power.

The conflict has been called a proxy war between regional powers Iran and Saudi Arabia. More than 150,000 people have been killed, including more than 14,500 civilians.

The toll on the Yemeni people has been disastrous, with the UN calling the conflict the globe's worst humanitarian crisis.

Earlier in March, the UN asked for $4.27 billion (€3.9 billion) to alleviate the disaster.

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Edited by: Natalie Muller