Yemen's warring sides fail to extend UN-backed truce

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The United Nations said Sunday that negotiations between Yemen’s warring sides to extend a nationwide cease-fire will continue, after an agreement was not reached before a deadline on Oct. 2. In a statement, the U.N.’s envoy to Yemen called on all sides to refrain from acts of provocation as the talks continue.

The development dampens hopes that the 6-month-old ceasefire could turn into a longer peace.

The truce, which initially took effect in April, is the longest lull of fighting in Yemen’s civil war, now in its eighth year. The devastating conflict began in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile.

In a statement, U.N. envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said he “regrets that an agreement has not been reached today,” but thanks the internationally recognized government for “engaging positively” with the U.N.-drafted proposal to extend the cease-fire. He called on leaders to continue to endeavor to reach an agreement.

“I urge them to fulfill their obligation to the Yemeni people to pursue every avenue for peace," he said.

April’s truce had originally established a partial opening of the Sanaa airport and the Red Sea port of Hodeida. The ensuing months have seen regular flights start again from the capital’s airport to Jordan and Egypt. It also called for lifting a Houthi blockade on Taiz, the country’s third largest city. But little progress has been made there, after talks aimed at reopening local roads stalled. Another sticking point is how salaries of public employees will be funded, many of whom have not been compensated for years.

Sunday’s statement came a few days after Grundberg met in Sanaa with the top leader of the Houthis, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi, and other senior officials, who have been pushing for a full opening of the airport. The envoy warned last week that the risk of return to war was “real.”

Ahmed Al-haj, The Associated Press