Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The new UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Sana’a on Tuesday hours before a five-day ceasefire between the Houthi rebels and Arab coalition forces took effect.
The Mauritanian diplomat, who is visiting Yemen for the first time since he was appointed to the role of special envoy for Yemen in April, will be supervising the implementation of the humanitarian truce, Yemen’s exiled Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We are convinced there is no solution to Yemen’s problem except through a dialogue, which must be Yemeni,” Houthi-controlled SABA news agency quoted the UN envoy as saying.
The Houthi movement earlier this week accepted a Saudi proposal for a five-day pause in hostilities aimed at securing the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilian areas blockaded by weeks of fighting.
Backed by Washington, Saudi Arabia has spearheaded a 10-strong coalition force that has been carrying out airstrikes against Houthi positions since March 26 with the aim of restoring to power the internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
Hadi, who has sought refuge in Saudi Arabia, has urged the Arab coalition to deploy ground forces in Yemen.
The truce may be extended depending on Houthi compliance, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir announced earlier.
Yassin told Asharq Al-Awsat via phone that there were concerns aid may not reach those who are most in need of it. The foreign minister urged the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to show restraint for the sake of the Yemeni people.
Humanitarian aid provided by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar has entered the country at the southern port city of Aden via Djibouti, Yassin said.
“It is hard to distribute aid in the cities of Yemen due to the fact that Houthi militias are in control of the roads where they have set up checkpoints, confiscating materials,” Yassin said.
“In Sana’a it is hard to distribute food and medicine stocked up by Yemenis, which is enough for three months, due to a ban on distribution by the [Houthi] militias and their allies.”
Yemen’s Vice-President Khaled Bahah on Monday concluded a tour in the Gulf aimed at mobilizing efforts to provide urgent humanitarian aid to civilians.
Prior to the truce that began on Tuesday evening, Saudi-led airstrikes continued against Houthi positions across Yemen as pro-Hadi volunteers clashed with rebels.
Eyewitness told Asharq Al-Awsat that airstrikes had hit military bases used by Saleh’s forces near the headquarters of the Ministry of Information in Sana’a. The airstrikes damaged military vehicles and equipment, and several vehicles were seen leaving the base.
Arafat Madabish contributed reporting from Sana’a.