UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. special envoy for Yemen gave the warring parties in the Arab world’s poorest country revised proposals on Friday for a nationwide cease-fire and the urgent resumption of peace talks.
Martin Griffiths urged the internationally recognized government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and Iranian-backed Houthi Shiite rebels to accept the proposed agreements “without delay” and to start negotiations “to comprehensively end the war.”
A two-week cease-fire proposed by the Saudi-led coalition in response to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal for a halt to hostilities in all global conflicts went into effect Thursday, potentially paving the way for peace talks to end the more than 5-year-old conflict.
But Houthi rebels, who control northern Yemen and the capital, Sanaa, quickly dismissed the offer as a ploy by the kingdom to boost its international standing while a spokesman for the rebel forces accused the coalition of several attacks on Thursday.
The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 on behalf of the U.N.-backed government of Yemeni President Abed Rabo Mansour Hadi. 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.
Griffiths said his proposed agreements on a cease-fire, a resumption of the political process, and economic and humanitarian measures “to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, build confidence between the parties and support Yemen’s ability to respond to the crisis of COVID-19” were “balanced.”
“These proposals represent a realistic and comprehensive package to enable Yemen to break from the violence and suffering of the past and take a historic step toward peace,” Griffiths said in a statement.
He said: “The international community stands ready to provide support and assurances to the process.”
The U.N. Security Council later Friday reiterated their support for Griffiths and repeated their call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and “an urgent return to deescalation.”
The council welcomed the announcement of a unilateral cease-fire by the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni government’s “positive response to the cease-fire call, and called on the Houthis to make similar commitments without delay.”
Noting that Yemen’s humanitarian crisis makes the country exceptionally vulnerable to an outbreak of COVID-19, the council “stressed that further military escalation in Yemen would hinder the access of humanitarian and health care workers and the availability of health care facilities necessary to necessary to tackle an outbreak.”