Muscat – President Joe Biden of the United States has praised Oman for ‘playing a central role’ in the extension of truce in Yemen.
In a statement on the extension of the UN-mediated truce, Biden said that the truce, now going on five months, has brought a period of unprecedented calm in Yemen, saving thousands of lives and bringing tangible relief for countless Yemenis.
“I want to recognise the hard work of my Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, who – working hand-in-hand with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg – played a major role in this achievement.”
Lavishing the sultanate with special praise, Biden said, “Oman also played a central role in securing this extension of the truce, and we’re grateful for the role played by (His Majesty) Sultan Haitham bin Tarik as a mediator and for his team as an interlocutor between all the parties to the conflict.”
He said that Secretary of State Tony Blinken also helped advance the truce, “including making calls this weekend with his Omani counterpart, and with the President of the Yemeni Presidential Leadership Council, Rashad Alimi”.
Heading to peace in Yemen?
Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to renew a two-month truce, the United Nations said on Tuesday, in an 11th-hour move on the day it was set to expire.
“I would like to announce that the parties to the conflict have agreed to the United Nations’ proposal to renew the current truce in Yemen for two additional months,” the UN special envoy on Yemen, Hans Grundberg, said in a statement.
Yemen has been gripped by conflict since the Iran-backed Huthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.
Grundberg added that the truce was extended under the same terms as the previous one.
On Wednesday, a Yemeni aircraft left the rebel-held capital Sanaa for Cairo on the first commercial flight between the two cities since 2016.
It was the seventh such flight under the truce, with the previous six all heading to the Jordanian capital Amman.
Beyond opening Sanaa airport to some commercial flights – a lifeline to Yemenis needing medical care abroad – the truce has allowed oil tankers to dock in the rebel-held port of Hodeida, potentially easing fuel shortages in Sanaa and elsewhere.
But a provision for the rebels to ease their siege of Yemen’s third-largest city Taez has yet to be implemented, to the anger of the government which is demanding roads to the city be opened.
The rebels in turn have called on the government to pay the salaries of public sector employees working in areas under their control.
“In order for the truce to fully deliver on its potential, additional steps will need to be taken, particularly on the matters of road openings and commercial flight operations,” Grundberg said.
Aid agencies welcome decision
Aid agencies and Western governments had urged the Yemeni government and Huthi rebels to extend the truce, which went into effect in April and significantly reduced the intensity of fighting in a conflict the UN says has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“We hope this extension of the truce will allow for further progress on the reopening of roads linking cities and regions, allow more displaced people to return to their homes, and ensure humanitarian aid can reach people who have been out of reach because of the fighting,” Norwegian Refugee Council’s Yemen country director, Erin Hutchinson, said in a statement.