Feature: Yemenis hope for UN-backed peace initiatives to end four-year war

Source: Xinhua| 2018-11-20 06:24:56|Editor: yan
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by Mohamed al-Azaki

SANAA, Nov. 19 (Xinhua) -- On Monday evening in downtown Sanaa, the Yemeni capital under rebels' control, everyone appeared busy with his mobile phone, checking news of peace initiatives declared a few hours ago by warring parties to end Yemen's war.

The Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels both declared halt of fighting to end the nearly four-year-long war that killed tens of thousands of people and brought the impoverished Arab country to its knees.

"This is the best news I have ever heard," said Ali Ahsan, a local resident who works as a translator with a media company.

"It brings a glimmer of hope that the peace would eventually fall," he said, peering into the screen of his phone for news.

The dominant Houthi rebel movement late on Sunday announced the halt of drone and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The decision was by far the biggest concession from the rebels since the war erupted in 2015.

The decision meets the request of Saudi Arabia and the UAE, according to the United Nations, broker of the peace efforts.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been leading a military coalition, backed by the United States, Britain and France, which intervened in the Yemeni conflict in March 2015, to support the Yemeni government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after Houthis forced him into exile and seized much of the country's north, including Sanaa.

"We announce our initiative to halt drone and ballistic missile attacks on the countries of aggression," Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, chief of the Houthi supreme revolutionary committee, said in a statement.

Al-Houthi said the decision came in response to the demand by the UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to show "good will" ahead of the peace talks, adding that his group "will attend the talks."

Hours later, the internationally recognized government said it would also attend the peace talks.

Last week, the Saudi-led coalition announced halt of military operations in Hodeidah, the rebel-held port city on the Red Sea, to back the UN peace efforts.

The coalition troops and its allied Yemeni government forces have advanced to the center of the port city over the past few weeks, capturing much of the coastal city, including Hodeidah airport and university.

On Friday, Griffiths told the UN Security Council that he would visit Sanaa within the next few days to meet Houthi officials and offer to travel with the Houthi delegation "if that is what is needed."

"The Yemeni government and Houthis have committed to attending peace talks," he said.

Griffiths, who was a British diplomat before undertaking the Yemeni peace task, expressed hope to convene talks "soon" in Sweden to agree on a teamwork for peace under a transitional government.

Griffiths failed in September to hold a round of talks in Geneva after Houthi delegation refused to attend, saying the United Nations did not guarantee the return of their delegates to Sanaa.

However, many Yemenis appeared cautious about the new push for peace.

"I hope this is the real start of peace process to end the war, epidemics and hungry," said Bashir al-Salwi, a journalist.

"We need real peace that leads to a complete end of all forms of the conflict, including the social regionalism, sects, economy, unity, federalism, and politics," al-Salwi noted.

The four-year-long war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, displaced 3 million others and pushed the country to the brink of famine.