Warring parties agree to Yemen ceasefire

16 December 2018
Agreement between the government and Houthi rebel movement was reached on last day of talks in Sweden

The warring parties in Yemen agreed to a ceasefire on the last day of UN-led talks in Sweden between the officially recognised government delegation and the Houthi rebel movement.

The ceasefire covers the port city of Hudaydah and other measures aimed at ending fighting in the country and relieving the humanitarian crisis.

“You have reached an agreement on Hudaydah port and city, which will see a mutual redeployment of forces from the port and the city, and the establishment of a governorate-wide ceasefire,” said UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres on 13 December, noting that the UN would play “a leading role” in the port.

The port is a vital trade link for Yemen as it is used for importing food that is then transported by road to the capital Sanaa. The UN says there are about 20 million people in Yemen who are food insecure and 10 million of those do not know how to obtain their next meal.

“This [the ceasefire agreement] will facilitate the humanitarian access and the flow of goods to the civilian population," said Guterres. "It will improve living conditions for millions of Yemenis.”

Other measures agreed in Sweden include an easing of hostilities at Taizz, Yemen’s third-largest city, and a demining programme.

The warring parties had previously agreed to a mass exchange of prisoners. The UN expects this move will allow thousands of Yemenis to be reunited with their families.

It is unclear whether the ceasefire will last, with reports on 15 December stating that fighting has resumed on the fringes of Hudaydah.

The Washington-based IMF recently met with officials from the Yemen government and the central bank. It concluded that while fighting was the ultimate cause of the humanitarian crisis in the country, better economic policies supported by increased donor grants could contribute to mitigating the humanitarian crisis in the short run.

Better economic policies include the Yemeni government stepping up efforts to control and rationalise its spending, especially on the public wage bill, and improve revenue collections.

Yemen’s central bank has struggled to pay public sector salaries due to falling foreign exchange reserves.

The government expects to register a $1.1bn deficit in 2018, the first year it has announced a budget since 2014, when the country descended into armed conflict.

The latest budget set total expected revenues in 2018 at YR978bn ($2.22bn), with YR1.46tr ($3.32bn) of spending.

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