Warring parties in Yemen pledged to respect a ceasefire amid the civil war tearing the country apart on Saturday, December 23. The Houthis and Yemeni government also agreed to open a peace process brokered by the UN, which could be a form of national unity in the context of the Israel-Hamas war.

Yemen’s warring parties have committed to a new ceasefire and agreed to engage in a UN-led peace process to end the war, the UN envoy for Yemen said on Saturday.

The announcement by UN special envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, marks the latest step to end the deadly nine-year war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and triggered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.

It follows recent meetings by Grundberg in Saudi Arabia and Oman with Rashad Al-Alimi, head of Yemen’s Saudi-backed presidential council, and Mohammed Abdul Salam, the chief negotiator of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Grundberg said he “welcomes the parties’ commitment to a set of measures to implement a nation-wide ceasefire and (to) engage in preparations for the resumption of an inclusive political process,” according to a statement by his office.

The envoy “will now engage with the parties to establish a roadmap under UN auspices that includes these commitments and supports their implementation,” the statement added.

The roadmap includes commitments to pay civil servants’ salaries, open routes into the rebel-blockaded city of Taez and other parts of Yemen, and resume oil exports, according to the statement.

Yemen has been gripped by conflict since the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.

A UN-brokered ceasefire that took effect in April 2022 brought a sharp reduction in hostilities. The truce expired in October last year, though fighting largely remains on hold.

Red Sea Attacks

The agreement comes amid a flurry of attacks by the Houthi rebels on key shipping lanes in the Red Sea in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is fighting Hamas militants.

The Houthis have pledged to attack Israel-linked vessels or ships heading to Israeli ports unless an end is brought to the Israel-Hamas war that started on October 7.

They have launched more than 100 drone and missile attacks, targeting 10 merchant vessels and involving more than 35 different countries, according to the Pentagon.

The attacks by the rebels are imperiling a transit route that carries up to 12 percent of global trade, prompting the United States to set up a multinational naval task force to protect Red Sea shipping.

The latest agreement also coincides with a push by Saudi Arabia to extricate itself from the conflict, despite slim hopes of a lasting peace.

The oil-rich monarchy gave a signal this year by resuming ties with Iran, which backs the Houthis against the Saudi-supported government in a proxy war.

The Saudi-led intervention’s stated aim was to protect civilians from Houthi attacks, restore the government, and stop Yemen from becoming a safe haven for Iranian-backed forces.

Eight years in, the rebels control swathes of the country and command an impressive arsenal of weapons that they have used to attack Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, another coalition member.

Many analysts are pessimistic that Riyadh’s plans for a downsized military role will bring peace to Yemen, which remains deeply fractured along religious, regional, and political lines.

Malo Pinatel, with AFP