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Yemen's warring sides renew 2-month truce

Yemen's warring sides renew 2-month truce
Travelers arrive to board a Yemenia Airways plane for the first flight from Sanaa airport after it was reopened for commercial flights following a two-month truce that went into effect early April. On Thursday, the truce was extended another two months, the United Nations said. File Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE

June 2 (UPI) -- Yemen's warring Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the nation's internationally recognized government have agreed to renew the current truce for another two months, the United Nations said Thursday, sparking hopes of an eventual end to the bloody civil war.

The truce originally came into effect April 2 with its renewal coming only hours before it was to expire at 7 p.m. AST Thursday.

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"The truce represents a significant shift in the trajectory of the war and has been achieved through responsible and courageous decision making by the parties," U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement announcing the agreement.

The original truce agreement included the resumption of two commercial international flights a week between the Houthi-controlled Sanaa and Amman, Jordan, as well as Cairo, Egypt. Eighteen fuel ships were also allowed to port in Hodeida, which is also under rebel control.

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Hans said he will continue to work with both sides in order to fully implement the agreement and move toward a political end to the conflict.

"By agreeing to implementing and now renewing the truce, the parties have provided a rare glimmer of hope to Yemenis that an end to this devastating conflict is possible," he said. "I count on the parties' continued cooperation in good faith to build trust and take meaningful steps towards providing a peaceful future for all Yemenis."

Since the war began in 2014 with Houthi rebels storming the capital Sanaa, the country has spiraled into what the U.N. has called "the world's worst humanitarian crisis."

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According to the U.N.'s Yemen office, the war has left 24.1 million people, or 80% of the country's population, in need of humanitarian aid and protection with 14 million in acute need. The intergovernmental body's World Food Program states Yemen also has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world.

By the end of last year, the U.N. estimated that war has resulted in the deaths of 377,000 people, nearly 60% of whom died as a result of indirect causes, such as lack of access to food, water and healthcare. Another 4 million have been forced to flee their homes.

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Since the truce went into effect in April, Yemenis have experienced a reduction in violence and civilian casualties and an increase in fuel deliveries as well as a resumption after a six-year hiatus of international commercial flights, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.

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"I strongly urge the parties to complete the full implementation of the terms of the truce without delay in order to uphold the interests of all Yemenis, who continue to suffer from one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world," he said in a statement.

He added that regional and international support will remain critical for the continuation and successful implementation of the truce.

U.S. President Joe Biden said U.S. diplomacy will not cease until a permanent settlement is in place.

"The United States will remain engaged in this process over the coming weeks and months," he said.

The European Union also welcomed the development with its high representative, Josep Borrell, stating the 27-member block encourages both groups to build upon this momentum.

"This is a real chance for a lasting peace in Yemen," he said in a statement. "After more than seven years of devastating conflict it is time -- finally and for good -- to end the suffering of the Yemeni people."

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Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Guterres, told reporters during a press conference that amid the renewed truce officials will seek to open roads to the southwestern city of Taiz.

A day earlier, he told reporters that despite the positive effects of the truce, the humanitarian need in the country is still vast.

"Severe needs persist across all sectors," he said. "We urge donors to increase their contributions to the Humanitarian Response Play for Yemen and to help address the drivers of humanitarian needs in the country -- including the economic crisis."

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