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Yemen Peace Deal “Positive Development” as Port Reopens, But Houthis Excluded from Talks

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A U.N.-brokered two-month truce in Yemen is now in its second week. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels both agreed to halt all offensive operations inside Yemen and across its borders. Fuel ships are now being allowed to enter into Hodeidah ports, and the airport in Sana’a is reopening. Over the past six years, the U.N. estimates the war in Yemen has killed nearly 400,000 people — many from hunger. We speak with Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the human rights organization Democracy for the Arab World Now, who says the truce deal, which is the first of its kind, is a “tremendously positive development.” She says domestically it still remains to be seen whether the U.N.’s attempt to establish a new government structure will hold as the U.N. has so far excluded Houthis from the negotiations.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to end by asking you about the news out of Yemen, the U.N.-brokered two-month truce in Yemen now in its second week. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels both agreed to halt all offensive operations inside Yemen, across its borders. Can you talk about the latest and the significance of this?

SARAH LEAH WHITSON: Well, first of all, it is a tremendous positive development. This is the first truce for over the past six years. And so far it’s held. It’s a time-bound truce of two months. And it’s almost a complete truce. And I say “almost” because while the guns are quiet, the siege of Yemen has not stopped. The Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of the entire country — air, land, sea — has not stopped. While there have been some agreements to allow some limited flights into Sana’a, which is great, and some limited fuel shipments into Houthi-controlled areas, which is very important, overall, the siege remains.

Domestically, it will remain to be seen whether this attempt by the international community, the U.N., to establish a new government structure — President Hadi has turned over his executive powers to a new government structure that includes, basically, every party to the conflict inside the country except for the Houthis, in an attempt to bring them together to, I suppose, defeat the Houthis, once and for all. Whether that will hold remains to be seen. I think we all have to realize that the Houthis will have to be part of any negotiated settlement in the country, and excluding them, as they represent certainly a sizable minority in the country, will not be a recipe for success. Nevertheless, this is a tremendously important respite for the Yemeni people from bombs and weapons that have been devastating them for the past over six years.

AMY GOODMAN: Sarah Leah Whitson, we want to thank you for this update on these issues, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World Now, or DAWN.

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