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Yemen Cease-Fire Would Pave The Way For Humanitarian Assistance

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

There is a lot happening elsewhere in the world, including in Yemen, where the warring sides say they agreed to a cease-fire - a short one - 72 hours. The U.N. envoy for Yemen is is hoping for more. He wants peace talks to start. NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed says the cease fire he negotiated back in April will re-enter into force, and that should pave the way for desperately needed humanitarian assistance. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric says the envoy believes he has buy-in from all sides.

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STEPHANE DUJARRIC: The special envoy has received assurances from all Yemeni parties to their recommitment to the terms and conditions of the cessation of hostilities.

KELEMEN: Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the news, saying everyone will have to make compromises and commitments. The U.S. has been backing the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen against Houthi rebels who are getting support from Iran. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting. And a deadly Saudi strike on a funeral procession earlier this month forced the U.S. to re-evaluate its support to Riyadh.

Sama'a Al-Hamdani, who runs Yemeniaty, a nonprofit that organizes events in Washington on Yemeni politics and culture, says the U.S. is saying the right thing but still supplying Saudi Arabia with weapons.

SAMA'A AL-HAMDANI: Ever since the start of the war, the U.S. has supported this war logistically. They have been refueling planes for Saudi Arabia and its allies. Also, the U.S. is still continuing its war on terror in Yemen against al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which means that they are still droning locations where they think that there are al-Qaida suspects. So there are two ways that they're involved in Yemen now.

KELEMEN: In addition, the U.S. says Houthi rebels fired on a U.S. Navy ship and the U.S. responded. But as Hamdani points out in our Skype call, the Obama administration is focused on other problems in Syria and Iraq. That's why the U.S. seems so eager now to help the U.N. envoy negotiate a peace deal on Yemen, though she's not sounding confident this cease fire will stick. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.