UN envoy to Security Council: Restoring cease-fire ‘critical’ for Yemen

UN envoy to Security Council: Restoring cease-fire ‘critical’ for Yemen.  UNITED NATIONS — A United Nations envoy said Wednesday a return to a cease-fire in Yemen after weeks of heavy bombing and shelling was “critical” to renewing peace talks.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flanked by U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller, meets with United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Ismaïl Ould Cheikh Ahmed and his advisers on August 25 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, before a broader meeting with regional leaders to discuss the ongoing fighting in Yemen. Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

Three months of negotiations in Kuwait ended without a breakthrough on Aug. 7, triggering what UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed described as a “dangerous escalation in military activities.”

“In order to accelerate the path to renewed talks, the resumption of the cessation of hostilities will be critical,” he told the Security Council.

A new cease-fire will “spare Yemen the further loss of life, allow the increased flow of humanitarian assistance and generate much-needed confidence for the negotiation of a comprehensive and peaceful solution,” he said.

The Saudi-led coalition waging a military campaign in Yemen has stepped up its air raids following the breakdown of talks and cross-border attacks from Yemen have also intensified.

Among the poorest countries in the Arab world, Yemen slid further into chaos when the coalition launched its campaign in March 2015 to push back Houthi rebels and their allies who still hold the capital Sanaa and other parts of the country.

More than 6,600 people have been killed since March last year and the war has left Yemen on the brink of financial ruin.

The envoy said a new cease-fire should begin with the deployment of a de-escalation committee in the border area of Dharan al-Janub and should include “a full end to all military activities by land, sea or air, and using any kind of weapon.”

There had been some hope of a settlement when a cease-fire was agreed on April 10 and talks convened in Kuwait, but the peace process broke down over disputes on the formation of a unity government and the withdrawal of rebel forces.

During a meeting last week between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Gulf ministers, a proposed agreement was reached calling for a unity government that will include the Houthis to be formed immediately following the rebel withdrawal from Sanaa and other areas and the handover of weapons.

Yemen’s government has said it welcomes the U.S.-backed plan in principle while the rebels have also sent out positive signals.

The envoy stressed the need for quick progress, given the worsening economic crisis.

Cheikh Ahmed warned that the lack of revenue and shortage of liquidity could make it impossible for salaries to be paid in the coming months, driving many more civilians into destitution.

By Jareer Elass, The Arab Weekly