Fierce Yemen truce threatens humanitarian gains

Fierce Yemen truce threatens humanitarian gains

A fragile UN-brokered truce between the Yemeni government and Huthi rebels hung in the balance Wednesday as talks on renewing it hit trouble, threatening the humanitarian gains of the past two months.

Aid agencies and Western governments have urged Yemen's warring parties to extend the truce, which has reduced the intensity of fighting in a conflict the United Nations says has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

There was no sign of a breakthrough in UN-backed talks with just one day before the truce ends.

A Yemeni aircraft left Sanaa for Cairo on the first commercial flight between the two cities since 2016, the latest gain from the truce deal.

The UN special envoy for Yemen told the UN that there were 77 people on board the Yemenia flight from Sanaa airport, which has been closed for nearly six years.

It is the seventh flight since the truce went into effect on April 2. The six previous flights were all to the Jordanian capital Amman.

Since the rebels overran Sanaa in 2014, Yemen has been gripped by conflict, which triggered a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.

On May 16, a Yemenia plane carrying 126 passengers, including critically ill hospital patients and their relatives, became the first commercial flight to leave Sanaa since August 2016.

Air traffic into the rebel-held capital has been largely stopped by a Saudi-led blockade, but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population.

The truce has reduced levels of violence despite accusations of violations by both the Saudi-led coalition and the Huthi rebels.

The ceasefire is about to be renewed amid the UN efforts to extend the truce, according to the Huthis.

The United States warned that the truce was in trouble as it pushed for an extension to help support millions of people at risk.

The talks on extending the ceasefire haven't ended yet but seem to be in a bit of trouble, said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations.

Aid agencies have urged Yemen's warring parties to extend the truce, saying it has positive humanitarian impacts. More than 30 aid agencies, including Save The Children, Oxfam and the Norwegian Refugee Council, have seen the positive humanitarian impacts of the truce, said in a joint statement.

They said the reopening of Sanaa Airport to commercial flights had allowed hundreds of patients in critical need of lifesaving medical treatment outside of the country to receive it.

The truce has seen oil tankers docking in the rebel-held port of Hodeida, potentially easing fuel shortages in Sanaa and elsewhere.

The rebels have yet to implement a provision for them to be able to take control of Yemen's third-largest city Taez, to the anger of both the government and residents who have held repeated protests in recent weeks.

The head of Yemen's presidential leadership council, Rashad al-Alimi, discussed the implementation of the truce with UN chief Antonio Guterres by telephone on Tuesday.

He asked the UN chief to increase the pressure on the Huthi militia to abide by its commitments to the truce, including opening roads to Taez, according to the official Saba news agency.

Taez has been largely cut off from the rest of the government-held territory since 2015, with all supplies coming in by a single tortuous road through the mountains.

The UN said that the war in Yemen has killed more than 150,000 people and displaced millions of civilians.