UN chief Antonio Guterres announced Thursday (December 13th) a series of breakthroughs in talks with rivals in the Yemen conflict, including a ceasefire for a vital port, AFP reported.
In a highly symbolic gesture on the seventh and final day of the UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden, Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani and Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam shook hands to loud applause.
However, a number of issues remain unresolved and a new round of talks will take place at the end of January, Guterres said.
The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 14 million Yemenis now at the brink of mass starvation.
Guterres, who flew in to Sweden late Wednesday, announced that the government and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) had agreed on a ceasefire in the port of al-Hodeidah, the main entry point for imported food and aid.
"There is a ceasefire declared for the whole governorate of al-Hodeidah in the agreement and there will be both from the city and the harbour a withdrawal of all forces," he told reporters.
UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, who is due to brief the Security Council on Yemen on Friday, said the pullout should take place "within days".
Guterres said the UN would play a "leading role" in monitoring the Red Sea port, which is currently controlled by the Houthis, and facilitate aid access to the civilian population.
In addition, the rivals have reached a "mutual understanding" on Yemen's third city of Taiz, the scene of some of the most intense battles in the conflict.
But no deal has been reached on the future of the airport in the capital Sanaa or on economic measures that are vital to help the country's population.
The January talks will focus on a framework for negotiations on a political process, which Guterres said was the only solution to the conflict.
Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani told reporters the deals were the biggest step forward since the outbreak of the war but remained "hypothetical". Lead Houthi negotiator said the Houthis had made "major concessions" on al-Hodeidah.