US calls for Yemeni combatants to implement, renew upcoming ceasefire

The United States is urging all sides to the conflict in Yemen to comply with a UN-brokered cessation of hostilities and to extend the ceasefire beyond the initially agreed 72 hours.

"We ask the parties to take all steps necessary to advance the implementation of this cessation, call on them to sustain it, and strongly encourage its unconditional renewal," US Secretary of State John Kerry said Tuesday.

The cessation, which was announced Monday from UN headquarters in New York, is due to take effect at 23:59 Wednesday in Yemen (2059 GMT) and would expire Saturday night.

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed led the talks that produced the ceasefire between all Yemeni parties and the Saudi-led coalition that has waged an air campaign since early 2015 against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebel movement in Yemen.

"This cessation requires all parties to implement a full and comprehensive halt to military activities of any kind and help facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Yemenis across the country," Kerry said. "It will also enable the special envoy to continue his consultations and renew the peace negotiations as soon as possible."

The country had already suffered long-running violence and internal strife when the Houthis and their allies marched on President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi's last strongholds in southern Yemen, prompting Saudi Arabia to launch its airstrikes in support of the internationally recognized president.

The mainly Shiite Houthis are battling a loose alliance including Hadi loyalists and southern separatists backed by Gulf troops, Sunni Islamists and jihadists.

According to the UN, 6,500 Yemenis had been killed between the launch of the Saudi air campaign and June 2016, with the majority of the civilian deaths caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes.

Millions more are suffering serious food and water shortages, and a cholera outbreak has struck the capital, Sana'a.

Yemenis "are depending on the full cooperation of all parties" with calls for unhindered access to humanitarian supplies, Kerry said.

"Peaceful resolution of this conflict requires compromises and commitments by everyone," he said. "The United States, alongside the international community, is ready to provide assistance and will continue to work with all parties to conclude a negotiated settlement that will bring a permanent and lasting end to the conflict."

The US, Britain and the United Nations had called Sunday for a ceasefire in Yemen, after the Saudi-led coalition on Saturday admitted responsibility for an airstrike that killed some 140 people including prominent political figures.

The funeral hall bombing, which the alliance blamed on mistaken information from informants loyal to Hadi, drew international condemnation and fueled pressure for a ceasefire from the US and Britain, key backers of the Saudis.

Last update: Wed, 19/10/2016 - 00:06

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