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UN's Envoy to Yemen Stepping Down

  • VOA News

FILE - Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen and the country's chief political interlocutor since 2011, speaks to a reporter during an interview with AP in Sanaa, Sept. 28, 2014.

FILE - Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen and the country's chief political interlocutor since 2011, speaks to a reporter during an interview with AP in Sanaa, Sept. 28, 2014.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen is leaving his post after spending four years trying to help the country carry out a peaceful transition plan that stalled as the situation unraveled into a political crisis and violent conflict.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement Wednesday that envoy Jamal Benomar "expressed interest in moving on to another assignment."

Benomar, a veteran Moroccan diplomat, brokered a 2011 transition plan aimed at quelling political turmoil in Yemen. However, it subsequently unraveled, culminating in an on-going Saudi-led bombing campaign against Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

“A successor shall be named in due course. Until that time and beyond, the United Nations will continue to spare no efforts to re-launch the peace process in order to get the political transition back on track,” the statement said.

A U.N. diplomatic source said Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was considering appointing Mauritanian diplomat Ould Cheikh Ahmed to the post.

A Western diplomat said Ahmed was “in the mix” as a candidate, adding that a final decision had not been made. Several diplomats said it had been known for months that Benomar wanted to leave the Yemen post.

U.N. diplomats said Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries expressed dissatisfaction with Benomar's efforts in peace talks that have so far failed to halt the fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the backers of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The Houthis and President Hadi had also grown impatient with the envoy, Yemeni political sources told Reuters, and U.N.-sponsored talks repeatedly gave way to armed clashes between the two sides.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution earlier this week calling on all parties in Yemen to "resume and accelerate" inclusive peace negotiations.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch urged the countries involved in the Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen to investigate the bombings that struck a dairy factory in Hodeida two weeks ago, killing at least 31 civilians.

The group said the airstrikes "may have been indiscriminate or disproportionate" attacks by the pro-government coalition, while also saying that Houthi fighters may have endangered civilians by operating an air base close to the site.

Some material for this report came from Reuters.

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