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U.N. truce in Yemen's bloody civil war expires

A United Nations-mediated truce in Yemen's bloody civil war has expired with neither warring side agreeing to extend it. File photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE
A United Nations-mediated truce in Yemen's bloody civil war has expired with neither warring side agreeing to extend it. File photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE

Oct. 4 (UPI) -- A United Nations-mediated truce in Yemen's bloody civil war has expired with neither side agreeing to extend it, as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres vowed negotiations will move forward.

The six-month truce expired Sunday as the United States urged the Houthis to continue "negotiations in good faith and to work with the U.N. to come to an agreement to extend the truce and keep Yemen on the path to peace," the State Department said in a statement.

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"The United States expresses its deep concern that the U.N.-mediated truce in Yemen expired on Oct. 2," the State Department said Monday. "We urge all the parties to exercise restraint during this sensitive time."

Guterres "was disappointed to see that the parties have not agreed to the new proposal for the extension and expansion of the truce," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the Secretary-General, told reporters Monday. "However, negotiations are still ongoing and will continue."

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U.N. Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said in a statement he "regrets that an agreement has not been reached today," and called on leaders to continue to negotiate.

The Yemen civil war, which began in 2014 when Houthi rebels stormed the capital Sanaa, has turned the country into what the U.N. has described as "the world's worst humanitarian crisis."

The first U.N.-mediated truce went into effect in April to "provide tangible relief to civilians," and allowed a weekly commercial international flight to resume between the Houthi-controlled Sanaa and each of Amman, Jordan and Cairo, Egypt. Fuel ships were also allowed to port in rebel-controlled Hodeida.

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The State Department called the truce "the longest period of calm since the war began, a dramatic reduction in civilian casualties, four times more fuel flowing into Yemen's northern ports and commercial flights enabling over 25,000 Yemenis to seek medical care and reunite with loved ones abroad."

Before the deadline expired, Guterres had called for an expanded and extended truce.

"I strongly urge the Yemeni parties to not only renew but also to expand the truce's terms and duration, in line with the proposal presented to them by my Special Envoy, Hans Grundberg," Guterres said in a statement Friday.

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In a tweet on Thursday, Grundberg said he had held "intense discussions" during the past week, and said renewal and expansion was a "humanitarian imperative and a political necessity."

Despite Sunday's expiration, the State Department said it will continue to push for the expanded U.N. truce proposal that would provide salaries to civil servants, open roads, expand International flights and ease clearance for fuel ships entering Hudaydah port. The proposal would also launch negotiations on a "comprehensive ceasefire" and a Yemeni-led "political process that could end the war."

"The truce represents the best opportunity Yemenis have had for peace in years. The choice before the parties is simple: peace and a brighter future for Yemen, or a return to pointless destruction and suffering that will further fracture and isolate a country already on the brink," the State Department warned. "The only way to truly ease the suffering of Yemenis is through negotiation, not war."

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