By Suleiman Al-Khalidi
AMMAN (Reuters) -A United Nations-led truce in Yemen is a “decisive moment” in the near seven-year conflict and offers hope the warring parties and international community can bring a lasting peace to the devastated country, a senior U.S. official told Reuters.
U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking said the U.N.- brokered two-month truce between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi group aligned with Iran, which comes into effect on Saturday, was a “first step” to a permanent ceasefire.
“If the international community and parties can work together this could be built into a lasting ceasefire and inclusive political process that ultimately gives shape to a new Yemen,” Lenderking said in an interview in Amman.
“We want to build on a decisive moment that helps Yemen turn the corner.”
The conflict has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions into hunger. The last coordinated cessation ofhostilities nationwide was during peace talks in 2016.
Lenderking said the deal was a culmination of stepped up U.S. diplomacy and the Houthis’ realisation there could be no outright military victory.
“The battlefield dynamics have changed, all of these things have combined to create what is a decisive moment,” he said.
The coalition was able to prevent the fall of Yemen’s gas rich Marib region, where the Houthis last year advanced on most districts barring the main city and nearby hydrocarbon sites.
The Houthis had responded by stepping up attacks on Saudi Arabia and its ally the United Arab Emirates.
However, they have now put aside the “notion of military victory,” Lenderking said.
The truce is an opportunity for Iran, which Washington says provides significant support for the Houthis, to show its goodwill in backing the U.N.-led drive for peace, he added.
“We would like to see Iran move away from the negative tactics and role they have played up this point,” he said.
The conflict is widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
(Reporting by Suleiman Al-KhalidiEditing by Mark Potter)