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UN envoy ‘optimistic’ about Yemen truce despite violations

UN envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks to media after the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland on December 20, 2015. (Reuters photo)

The UN envoy for Yemen says he is still “optimistic” that a fully-respected ceasefire will come into force in Yemen, despite several violations of a seven-day truce already in effect in the war-torn country.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said at a press conference on Sunday after ending the peace talks that “incredible progress” has been made at the talks among Yemen’s warring sides in Switzerland, adding that all sides agreed to hold the next round of talks on January 14.

The negotiations began in the Swiss village of Magglingen on December 15 between a delegation representing the Houthi Ansarullah movement and representatives from Yemen’s fugitive former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi to end the war.

The UN envoy also noted that the UN experts knew from the beginning that there would be violations of ceasefire, saying, “But we have to remember that it is a war that went back for more than nine months. Ceasefire is difficult but this is our request.”

“This is why we have de-escalation and contact group composed of military people from both sides, sitting together in the same room and discussing, looking at the map and contacting their operation groups to stop. This is an incredible progress. These people were in the front battling against each other, now they are sitting in one room,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

“Though we are still far from a fully respected ceasefire but I am optimistic we will achieve a ceasefire in coming days,” he added.

The UN envoy stressed that the conflicting parties who attended the talks agreed that the main objective is to “end this war and have permanent ceasefire.”

Ould Cheikh Ahmed further said that some 102 trucks carrying humanitarian aid arrived in conflict-stricken Tai’zz province and that both sides agreed on the need to "lift all forms of blockade and allow safe, rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies” to all affected areas.

This picture released by the UN Photo shows a general view of the room at the opening of Yemen peace talks on December 15, 2015 in Magglingen, northern Switzerland. (AFP Photo)

The remarks came while a member of Hadi’s delegation said the talks ended without any agreement to end the Saudi aggression against Yemen.

A source from the Ansarullah movement also said that “the negotiations have basically failed.”

Yemen has been under military attacks and a blockade by Saudi Arabia since late March. More than 7,500 people have been killed and over 14,000 others injured since March. The strikes have also taken a heavy toll on the impoverished country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools and factories.

The Saudi attacks were supposed to stop under a ceasefire which went into effect hours before the talks in Switzerland began; however, the raids have continued after the truce with reports of fatalities.

Saudi aggression and truce violations

On Sunday, five Yemeni women were killed in a fresh Saudi airstrike in Sa’ada Province despite the ceasefire.

Saudi warplanes bombed a residential area in al-Kitaf town, al-Masirah satellite television said.

This is the second Saudi bombing of the region in the past 48 hours. In an attack on Friday, 15 people had been killed.

Earlier on Sunday, Saudi jets also targeted a firm in a village in Bani Matar town in Sana’a province. Saudi jets also bombed a post office there.

A mosque and a bus station were also bombed in al-Hudaydah province.

The Sunday attacks was the latest violation of a seven-day ceasefire that came into force after UN-brokered talks opened in Switzerland between Yemen’s warring sides on December 15.

On December 17, head of Ansarullah Political Council Saleh Ali al-Sammad said in a statement that Riyadh had intensified its bombing of Yemen, taking advantage of the truce.

In return, Ansarullah fighters and allied army units killed about 150 Saudi-led troops in two ballistic missile attacks on Saturday.

The first attack hit a military base in Ma'rib province that also destroyed eight Apache helicopters, a drones’ command center, two Chinook airplanes as well as a number of tanks and military vehicles.

The second attack targeted a gathering of Saudi forces in al-Tawal border crossing, which links Yemen’s northwestern province of Hajjah to Saudi’s southwestern province of Jizan.

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