UN council backs Yemen envoy’s efforts for new peace talks
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Security Council gave strong backing Tuesday to the U.N. special envoy for Yemen as he seeks to bring the warring parties together after a failed effort last week.
In a statement following a briefing by Martin Griffiths on his plans, the council urged all sides “to invest in confidence-building measures, engage in future consultations in good faith and seize the opportunity to de-escalate tensions.”
A delegation of the internationally recognized government arrived in Geneva for talks scheduled to start last Thursday, but rival Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis did not, arguing they didn’t have guarantees for their safe return.
Griffiths told the council by video from Amman that the Yemeni political process “will see ups and downs” and “the challenges that we faced are temporary hurdles to be overcome.”
“It is not a sign that the political and military situation is not conducive to formal consultations,” he said. “We need to stay focused on nurturing the political process particularly in its early stages, and building the needed momentum so that it can deliver tangible benefits to Yemenis throughout Yemen.”
Griffiths said he will begin a series of visits in the coming days to secure “a firm commitment” for new talks and build on discussions with the government last week to make progress on confidence-building measures including an exchange of prisoners and the opening of the airport in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital.
He said he will first go to Oman’s capital Muscat and Sanaa to engage Houthi leaders, and will also meet Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the Saudi capital Riyadh. He said he also plans to consult “very soon” with parties in southern Yemen where there were widespread demonstrations in the past 10 days against the country’s failing economy and lack of services that also saw renewed calls for secession.
The conflict in impoverished Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital of Sanaa by the Houthis, which toppled Hadi’s government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict which has killed over 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine, crippled the country’s health system, sparked a cholera epidemic, and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis according to the U.N.
The Security Council expressed regret that the Houthi delegation did not attend the Geneva talks and reiterated that only a political solution can end the conflict and alleviate the humanitarian suffering.
Griffiths stressed that as he attempts to resume talks, it’s important that the parties don’t become embroiled in large-scale military operations.
He expressed relief that the Red Sea port city of Hodeida — key to deliveries of food, medicine and other needed supplies — hasn’t yet suffered “the calamity of military operations.”
But he said “the war has been escalating across all fronts” including intensive operations on the outskirts of Hodeida and fierce fighting in other areas including Saada, Hajjah, Marib and Taiz governorates.