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UN Envoy Urges Support for Yemen Peace Process

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - A boy chants slogans through a gap in a national flag raised by Shi'ite rebels, known as Houthis, during a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, April 15, 2016.

FILE - A boy chants slogans through a gap in a national flag raised by Shi'ite rebels, known as Houthis, during a protest against Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa, Yemen, April 15, 2016.

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen urged parties in the upcoming peace talks to overcome their differences and negotiate a real political solution to the yearlong conflict.

"Yemen is now at a critical crossroad," Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the U.N. Security Council. "One path leads to peace, while the other can only worsen the security and humanitarian situation."

He said achieving any success at the talks scheduled to begin Monday in Kuwait would require "difficult compromises from all sides, as well as determination to reach an agreement."

He urged the Security Council members and regional and international players to support the process.

FILE - United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, gestures during a press conference at the UN offices at Geneva, June 19, 2015.

FILE - United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, gestures during a press conference at the UN offices at Geneva, June 19, 2015.

The envoy has been engaged in shuttle diplomacy across the Middle East for several months, trying to persuade states with influence to help him bring the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and rebel Shi'ite Houthis back to the negotiating table.

Cheikh Ahmed welcomed a fragile cessation of hostilities that went into effect April 10, saying it has brought a "discernible decrease in the level of military violence." But he cautioned that there have been several serious violations and said if violence escalated, it could threaten the success of the peace talks.

‘Big hopes’

At the upcoming talks, Cheikh Ahmed hopes to help negotiate a road map in several areas, including the withdrawal of militias and armed groups; the handover of heavy weapons to the state; and the release of prisoners and detainees.

Yemen's U.N. ambasador, Khaled Alyemany, told reporters that "we are all heading toward Kuwait with hopes — big hopes." He said if the international community is united and firm, the peace talks can yield real results. If they fail, he warned, "it will be a repetition of the cycle of violence."

The yearlong conflict has pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink. The U.N. says more than 6,400 people have been killed and nearly 3 million displaced from their homes. Some 21.2 million people, or 82 percent of the population, require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance.

Last month, the United Nations appealed for $1.8 billion to meet Yemen's humanitarian needs this year. That appeal is woefully underfunded, with $296 million received so far.

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