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'Deep Divisions' Between Yemeni Parties Prevent Peace Talks, UN Envoy Says

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - A Houthi Shiite rebel joins protests against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sana'a, Yemen, April 1, 2015.

FILE - A Houthi Shiite rebel joins protests against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sana'a, Yemen, April 1, 2015.

The U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen said Wednesday that "deep divisions" among the warring parties prevent him from calling for a new round of peace talks.

"The parties are divided over whether a new round of talks should be convened with or without a new cessation of hostilities," U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the U.N. Security Council. "I have not, unfortunately, received sufficient assurances that a new cessation of hostilities, should I call for one, would be respected."

Cheikh Ahmed later told reporters that he hoped to get talks going next month.

"We cannot delay these talks beyond, in my view, the month of March," he said. "The time is against us. The situation is catastrophic. The political solution is becoming more than ever needed today, and we need to precipitate these talks as soon as possible."

‘Social fabric torn apart’

He said the nearly one-year-old conflict between the Saudi-backed government and Iranian-supported Shi'ite Houthi rebels has killed more than 6,000 Yemenis and injured over 35,000 others.

FILE - A five-day humanitarian truce in Yemen appeared to be broadly holding as people wait to collect water from a public tap amidst an acute water shortage, in Sana'a, May 13, 2015.

FILE - A five-day humanitarian truce in Yemen appeared to be broadly holding as people wait to collect water from a public tap amidst an acute water shortage, in Sana'a, May 13, 2015.

"The country's infrastructure is destroyed; families dispersed, and its social fabric torn apart," Cheikh Ahmed said.

The U.N. has repeatedly called for inclusive political talks to resolve the crisis; an earlier round of discussions in Switzerland broke down in December. Since then, escalating tensions between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran have further complicated the delicate peace process.

The U.N. envoy called for a "recommitment" to a cessation of hostilities which would lead to a permanent cease-fire, urging the Security Council to support this step and "take action toward its implementation."

The Security Council's president said members agree that the only solution to the conflict must be through political negotiations, and they reiterated their support for the envoy.

As the fighting continues, Yemen's humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. The U.N. is expected to ask international donors for $1.8 billion dollars Thursday to fund humanitarian aid needs in the country this year.

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