After more than a year of shuttle-diplomacy around the Middle East, President Biden's special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, said a U.N.-brokered, two-month truce has been agreed by warring parties in Yemen.
"This is a positive moment for Yemen, and we've got to seize it," Lenderking said Saturday in an interview with CBS News.
The deal, reached by the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, was expected to go into effect on Saturday, in time for the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The warring parties agreed to stop all military operations across Yemen, including cross-border attacks.
Over the past years, the Houthis rebels have been successful in launching multiple missile and drone attacks against neighboring oil-rich Saudi and Emarati oil production facilities.
Most parties involved were quick to welcome the truce. In a statement issued by the White House Friday, President Biden called it a "reprieve for the Yemeni people."
Less enthusiastic, however, were the Houthi rebels. Prominent Houthi official Mohammed Ali al-Houthi said on Twitter that its "credibility would be in implementation."
Lenderking was adamant that the Houthis will not be able to use the truce to rearm. He also said the U.S. hasn't "been soft on any particular party."
"I think what you saw yesterday was a compromise that came forward in a very dramatic way, in a way that hasn't been seen in years, and there's no lessening of our posture toward the Houthis," he added.
Since 2015, the Houthi rebels have been engaged in a brutal conflict with the Saudi-backed Yemeni government. The war has left an estimated 400,000 dead – many, according to the U.N., from "indirect causes such as lack of food, health services, and infrastructure." The conflict has made 73% of Yemen's population of 30 million dependent on aid.
International aid agencies welcomed the development. Oxfam, an aid group that has been working in Yemen, hoped this will be "an opportunity to prioritize the lives of Yemenis, who need this grueling conflict to end so they can live in safety, recover and rebuild their lives."
Lenderking hoped "this isn't just another truce that's been named, another agreement that's been called for that's been broken."
He said the international community needs "to stay vigilant and focused to help the parties because there are going to be lapses, help drive it forward, support it."
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