GENEVA - A senior U.N. official says he believes Yemen’s warring parties want to find a political solution to end more than four years of civil conflict.
U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths remains optimistic that peace in Yemen is possible despite setbacks in mediation efforts.
He acknowledges that steps for winding down the conflict, accepted under December’s Stockholm Agreement in Sweden, have not been implemented. Nevertheless, he says both the government and Houthi rebels continue to insist they want a political solution. He says they remain committed to the Stockholm Agreement.
“They see it as the gateway to opening up negotiations on a political solution. So it is, I think, quite remarkable and unexpected in some ways that this time has elapsed since December the 13th that we are still observing commitment from both sides to make what they agreed in Stockholm happen,” he said.
While that is encouraging, Griffiths says a political solution to end this catastrophic war must be found soon. He says the war is becoming more complex and fragmented and the appalling humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to worsen.
“There are many wars in Yemen, and the longer this goes on, not only is it the longer that people will die from hunger and conflict, but that the solution becomes more difficult. The fragmentation of Yemen is an alarming trend," he said.
The U.N. says nearly 18,000 civilians have been killed or injured since the Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes in support of the Yemeni government in March 2015. It says more than 22 million people need humanitarian assistance or protection and more than eight million are at risk of starvation.
Griffiths warns the longer war goes on, the greater the possibility that Yemen could be dragged into a regional conflict. He says the likely consequences of that are too awful to contemplate.