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UN Chief: Yemen's Warring Sides Agree to Cease-Fire in Hodeida

Voice of America
14 Dec 2018, 01:05 GMT+10

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday representatives from Yemen's warring sides have agreed to a cease-fire in the contested Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

Guterres made the announcement after week-long U.N.-brokered talks in Rimbo, Sweden, where negotiators also agreed to withdraw troops from Hodeidah.

The deal includes deployment of neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian forces in the port city, he said.

Guterres also said a political framework will be discussed during the next round of talks in late January.

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Guterres thanked the delegations for taking 'an important step' and making 'real progress toward future talks to end the conflict.'

Guterres arrived late Wednesday in Sweden in order to join the final day of this round of talks and encourage both sides to keep building on what had already been achieved.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels had already agreed on a huge prisoner swap. Reports said they were close to a deal to reopen Sana'a's airport, and restart oil and gas exports to help the cash-starved country earn revenue.

Nearly all food and humanitarian aid deliveries come through the port and any hindrance in those deliveries threatens to worsen what the United Nations says is the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemeni forces says the rebels get Iranian arms through the port -- a charge Iran denies.

Saudi Arabia began its military intervention in Yemen in 2015 and has been accused by rights groups of being indiscriminate in its airstrikes that have killed civilians. Rights groups fault the Houthis for violations as well.

The U.S. Senate is set to vote Thursday on a measure to end U.S. support to the Saudi military involvement in Yemen.

In addition to strictly opposing the military aspect of the program, many lawmakers are also upset over the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi - allegedly at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - and President Donald Trump's tepid criticism of the Saudi government.

Trump is unwilling to anger a major U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia; but, he told Reuters Tuesday, 'I hate to see what's going on in Yemen. But it takes two to tango. I'd want to see Iran pull out of Yemen.'

Both sides in the peace talks say they plan to meet again early next year.

The fighting between the Houthis and Yemeni forces broke out in 2014, when the rebels seized the capital, Sana'a. More than 10,000 people have been killed.

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