U.N. expects Yemen fighting to halt from Friday until Ramadan ends

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 09, 2015 12:49 PM

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said it expects an unconditional week-long humanitarian pause in the fighting in Yemen to start on Friday to allow the delivery of assistance to some of the 21 million people in need.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of Arab states has been bombing the Iranian-allied Houthi rebel movement since late March in a bid to restore to power Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh.

"(U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon) noted that the President has communicated his acceptance of the pause to the coalition to ensure their support and collaboration," said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric on Thursday.

He said the Houthis, the General People's Congress and other parties had ensured U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed that the pause will be fully respected and that there will be no violations from any combatants under their control.

"We feel we have the expressions necessary by all parties to announce the start of this pause on Friday," said Dujarric.

"The Secretary-General looks forward to the commitments of all parties to the conflict in Yemen to an unconditional humanitarian pause to start on Friday ... until the end of Ramadan," he said.

More than 3,000 people have been killed in the conflict and over a million displaced, and the United Nations has been urgently pushing for a pause to help the 80 percent of the population in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

Both sides largely observed a five-day humanitarian truce brokered by the United Nations in May.

The United Nations has raised Yemen to its highest level humanitarian crisis, placing it alongside emergencies in South Sudan, Syria and Iraq.

Yemen relies on imports but a near total blockade led by Saudi Arabia has slowed shipments to the war-torn Arabian Peninsula country to a trickle. The Arab coalition is inspecting shipments in a bid to thwart any arms deliveries to the Houthis.

"Full and unhindered access by humanitarian agencies to all parts of the country, including through sea and airports, should be ensured with a view to reaching people in need, including with essential medicines, vaccinations, food and water," Dujarric said.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Andrew Hay and Tom Brown)