CAIRO -- The U.N. envoy for Yemen expressed concerns on Wednesday about violations of a cease-fire in the war-wrecked country, urging the warring sides to uphold the first nationwide truce in six years.
Meanwhile, Yemen's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi sacked his vice president and announced a presidential council to run the country and lead negotiations with the Iranian-backed rebels, according to a statement aired early Thursday on state-run media.
Hans Grundberg, the U.N. envoy, said that while the truce has led to “significant reduction of violence” in Yemen, there were reports of “some hostile military activities,” particularly around the central city of Marib.
He did not say which side was to blame for the violations but Yemen’s internationally recognized government has accused the Iran-backed rebel Houthis of attacking their positions in southern and western Marib. A Houthi spokesman was not available for comment.
“This truce is a step, an important one, but a fragile step, nonetheless," he said. “We need to make the best possible use of the window this truce gives us to work towards ending the conflict.”
The Houthi rebels have been trying for over a year to capture energy-rich Marib from government forces. But their efforts were dashed in recent months amid increasing support to the pro-government side from the Saudi-led coalition.
Grundberg told a virtual news conference that the United Nations was working on a coordination mechanism with the warring sides to maintain the truce, which was announced earlier this month. It is supposed to last for two months.
Grundberg cautioned that the cease-fire is not being monitored by the U.N. and that the “responsibility to uphold the truce is squarely with the parties themselves.”
Yemen’s brutal civil war erupted in 2014, when the Iranian-backed Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa and forced the government into exile. The Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try restore the government to power.
The conflict has in recent years become a regional proxy war that has killed more than 150,000 people, including over 14.500 civilians. It has also created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
The U.N.-announced truce also includes allowing shipments of fuel to arrive in Yemen’s key port city of Hodeida and for passenger flights to resume from the airport in Sanaa. Both Hodeida and Sanaa are held by the Houthis.
The U.N. envoy said he has invited with both sides to convene a meeting to agree on a reopening of roads around Taiz and other provinces as part of the truce.
“We look forward to their responses,” he said.
Taiz, which remains partially held by the forces fighting on behalf of the government, has been blockaded by the Houthis for years.
Meanwhile, Hadi, the Yemeni president who is exiled in Saudi Arabia since the Houthi coup, announced the transfer of his powers to a presidential council, according to a statement aired early Thursday on state-run media.
The newly-created body included a president and seven members and will lead negotiations to establish a permanent cease-fire and political settlement to the conflict, the statement said.
Hadi also sacked Vice President Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the government-run SABA news agency reported. The vice president's powers were also transferred to the presidential council.
The president also created a 50-member Consultation and Reconciliation Authority with the aim of helping the presidential council in peace efforts.