UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Yemen said Thursday the threat of the new coronavirus has galvanized peace efforts and that he expects the country’s warring sides to agree on a lasting cease-fire and peace talks “in the immediate future.”
Martin Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council that talks with Yemen’s internationally recognized government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis “are making very good progress.”
“I believe we are moving towards a consensus over the proposals, particularly on the principle of a nation-wide ceasefire,” the envoy said. “And we are redoubling our efforts to bridge the outstanding differences between the parties, before we convene them at a meeting where agreements will be tabled, confirmed, I hope, and published.”
The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in Yemen, which reported its first case earlier this month, threatens deeper and more widespread suffering in the Arab world’s poorest country, convulsed by civil war since 2014, when the Houthis took control of the country’s north, including the capital, Sanaa. The Saudi-led military coalition intervened against the Houthis the following year, conducting relentless airstrikes and a blockade of Yemen.
The conflict has killed over 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine.
“There cannot be a more timely moment for the two parties to commit to silencing the guns and ending the conflict through a peaceful, political solution,” he said.
Last Friday, Griffiths gave the warring parties revised proposals for a nationwide cease-fire, resumption of peace talks, and measures to spur the economy and alleviate suffering of the Yemeni people.
The Saudi-led coalition launched a cease-fire on April 9 in response to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal for a halt to hostilities in all global conflicts to tackle COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus. But the Houthis dismissed the offer as a ploy and clashes have continued since, casting doubt over a future peace agreement.
Griffiths however, said the Houthis have been engaging and that in his discussions with the rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi, “he has always communicated his desire to end this war.”
Griffiths told the Security Council that he has been in constant negotiations on the details and wording of his proposed agreements. “We expect them to agree on and formally adopt these agreements in the immediate future,” he said.