UN announces agreement on 72-hour Yemen cease-fire

Fire and smoke rise after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site believed to be one of the largest weapons depots on the outskirts of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Yemen, on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been in the midst of a civil war since September 2014 when Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, swept into the capital and overthrew the country's internationally recognized government. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Fire and smoke rise after a Saudi-led airstrike hit a site believed to be one of the largest weapons depots on the outskirts of Yemen's capital, Sanaa, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Yemen, on the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been in the midst of a civil war since September 2014 when Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, swept into the capital and overthrew the country's internationally recognized government. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire that will take effect shortly before midnight Wednesday, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen said.

Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hopes the temporary truce can lead to “permanent and lasting end to the conflict.”

Ahmed said in a statement Monday that he received assurances from all parties to the conflict o cease hostilities at 11:59 p.m. local time on Wednesday for an initial period of 72 hours that is subject to renewal.

The warring factions agreed to follow the conditions of a temporary April cease-fire agreement, he said. The agreement requires them to “to allow free and unhindered access for humanitarian supplies and personnel” to all parts of Yemen, he said.

The war in Yemen began in 2014 when Shiite rebels known as Houthis based in the north seized the capital, Sanaa.

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched a campaign of airstrikes against the rebels. The Saudi-led coalition and the United States are backing the internationally recognized government of Yemen’s president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

More than 4,000 civilians have been killed and 3 million of the country’s 26 million people have been driven from their homes by the fighting. Hunger has become widespread in the Arab world’s poorest country.

The southern city of Taiz is one of the hardest-hit areas.

Foreign Minister Abdel-Malak al-Mukhlafi demanded late Monday that a months-long siege of the city be lifted and relief supplies delivered to its residents without conditions.

“Peace is our permanent choice,” he said.

The cease-fire agreement was announced late Monday, a day after Ahmed, the U.N. envoy, met in London with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

“This is the time to implement a cease-fire unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table,” Kerry said after Sunday’s meeting.

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