Alwaght- Yemen's warring sides agreed on Thursday to a ceasefire for the strategic city of Hudaydah and its surrounding governorate, a major breakthrough that could end what the UN calls the "world's worst humanitarian crisis".
The announcement by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres cameas a new round of peace talks aimed at ending nearly four years of a brutal Saudi-led war on its southern neighbor came to a close in Sweden.
The delegations of Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and the country’s former Saudi-backed regime agreed that the world body play a “leading role” at the vital port, which is currently controlled by the Houthis.
“There is a ceasefire declared for the whole governorate of Hudaydah in the agreement and there will be both from the city and the harbor a withdrawal of all forces,” Guterres said, adding that after the pullout, the UN would begin facilitating aid access to the civilian population. In a highly symbolic gesture, Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani shook hands to loud applause with the head of the Houthi delegation, Mohammad Abdul Salam at the end of the conference.
More than 70 percent of Yemen’s imports used to pass through the docks of Hudaydah.
The port has, however, been placed under a tight siege since June, when the Saudi-led coalition and their allied militia loyal to the government of Yemen’s ex-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, launched a full-scale military push to seize the strategic port city in defiance of international warnings.
The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said that Ansarullah fighters were expected to withdraw from the port "within days, and then from the city", with both sides expected to "disengage".
He added that the ceasefire would "open up the east-west road [that connects Hudaydah and Sanaa] so that a humanitarian pipeline, which is crucial to the people of Yemen, can start delivering aid".
Leading a coalition of its allies, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh.
The aggression is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead.
Riyadh had declared at the start of the invasion that the war would take no more than a couple of weeks.