The announcement of a two-month truce in Yemen has been widely welcomed by the people and official circles in spite of concerns that the Iran-backed Houthi militias may not commit to it given their poor track record.
The Houthis did welcome the announcement, which was made on Friday night at the intra-Yemeni consultations in Riyadh. The ceasefire went into effect on Saturday.
People living in areas held by the Houthis hoped that the truce would have a positive impact, especially with the announcement that fuel would be allowed through Hodeidah port.
The terms of the two-months truce include facilitating the entry of 18 fuel ships into the ports of Hodeidah and allowing two commercial flights a week to and from Sanaa airport. The terms also include convening a meeting between the parties to agree on opening roads in Taiz and elsewhere to improve civilians’ freedom of movement inside Yemen.
Residents of Houthi-held Sanaa expressed their concern that the Houthis may abuse the truce to further oppress the people and increase restrictions on access to fuel. Residents of besieged Taiz hoped the agreement would ease their seven-year suffering at the hands of the militias.
Lack of commitment
Politicians believe the consultations, which kicked off on Wednesday and will conclude on April 7, may pave the way to reviving consultations with the Houthis to end the conflict in Yemen. Political observers, however, were less optimistic and have expressed concern that the truce would be exploited by the Houthis to regroup militarily.
They fear the militias may take advantage of the ceasefire and halt in air strikes to move their forces and vehicles to the oil-rich Marib province and prop itself up there after suffering a string of defeats.
Yemeni journalist Waddah al-Jaleel remarked the Houthis had repeatedly rejected similar truces in the past because they didn't need them. They were confident at the time that they could win battles, especially in Marib.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that now that the Houthis are in the weaker position, the truce would help them regroup after their losses in recent month, especially in Marib.
The militias had failed in capturing the province and incurred massive losses in the process. They were also defeated in the Bihan, Ain and Asailan districts in the Shabwa province.
The Houthis had also suffered a major drop in revenues that were going to their war effort, added Al-Jaeel. This forced the militias to create economic crises in areas under their control and deprive people of fuel, gas and food so that they would be forced to buy them at higher prices on the black market, which the Houthis control.
"The Houthis are the primary sides in need of this truce," continued Al-Jaleel. The people in areas under their control will see little benefits from it if the militias allow it to take effect in the first place.
Their suffering and the humanitarian tragedy will continue, he warned.
The Houthis will abuse the truce to increase their revenues and regroup their fighters. They will also not waste an opportunity in violating the ceasefire, he predicted.
Moreover, he added that several answers need to be addressed when discussing a truce: Who will monitor it? What guarantees are there to ensure it holds and that it isn't violated?
These are questions that must be addressed, he urged. He also underscored the need to wring out concessions from the Houthis for causing so much destruction since their 2014 coup against the legitimate government.
"The purpose of the coup is paving the way for peace, not preparing for war," stressed Al-Jaleel.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the truce, saying: "Today must be the start of a better future for the people of Yemen."
He urged all parties "to make the necessary arrangements to support the successful implementation of the truce, and to operationalize cooperation mechanisms without delay."
"A halt to the fighting, coupled with the entry of fuel ships, and the easing of restrictions on the movement of people and goods in, out and within the country, will contribute to building trust and creating a conducive environment to resume negotiations for a peaceful settlement of the conflict," he said.
The European Union hailed "the willingness shown by the parties in accepting the truce and the accompanying measures, including fuel shipments entering Hodeidah ports, commercial flights in and out of Sanaa and negotiations for opening roads in Taiz and other governorates"
It called on the parties involved to "respect the truce and continue engaging with UN Special Envoy towards a durable ceasefire, addressing urgent economic and humanitarian measures and resuming the political process.
It also conveyed best wishes to all Yemenis on the advent of Ramadan.
The truce was widely welcomed by Arab countries.
The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Kingdom supports the announcement made by the Yemeni government and the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen to accept the truce.
It also appreciated the efforts exerted by the Special Envoy to broker the truce, which comes in the context of the Saudi initiative announced in March 2021 to put an end to the Yemeni crisis and reach a comprehensive political solution.