The ceasefire in Yemen should be extended to allow more time for the leaders to talk more effectively about how to end the fighting, and to allow aid agencies to get desperately needed supplies into the besieged areas where the civilians are suffering badly from deprivation of most basics such as food and water, power and medical supplies.
The ceasefire also needs to be enforced more rigorously and it is a matter of regret that last week’s 72-hour ceasefire was not observed very well. Al Houthi forces used rockets, shells and snipers to attack border cities inside Saudi Arabia in the Jizan and Nijran provinces. They also launched attacks on Sana’a and other provinces which included Taiz, Hajja, Shabwa, Mareb and Aden.
Such widespread abuse of the ceasefire does not encourage confidence in any movement to eventual peace talks. Indeed the Saudi-led alliance commented that it has responded to Al Houthi attacks “according to the engagement rules and was continuing to exercise the highest self-restraints towards the violations of the ceasefire”.
One expects the diplomats from the UN to maintain professional optimism in the most adverse of circumstances, so it was not a surprise that Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, called for a renewal of the ceasefire.
The UN official is liaising with the parties in an attempt to extend the ceasefire in order “to create a conducive environment for a long-lasting peace” in Yemen. Previous attempts to enforce a ceasefire in the country have so far failed, and after the failure of talks in Kuwait in August, the fighting intensified.
The UN envoy urged both parties to show “restraint and avoid further escalation”. His words need to be heeded by all parties as the war drags on. It has killed at least 10,000 people and wounded more than 35,000.
Since March last year, at least three million people have lost their homes because they have had to flee the fighting, according to the UN. They are now living in camps or makeshift housing, and their families are suffering great deprivation.
The people of Yemen deserve better and Al Houthi leaders need to focus on the humanitarian reasons to end the struggle.
They should compromise and come to an arrangement similar to that which was on the table in August, to which they came very close to agreeing.