DUBAI: The United Nations said on Wednesday it aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks “within a month”, shortly after the United States called for the warring parties to come to the negotiating table.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed calls for an immediate resumption of talks and a ceasefire in Yemen.
“I urge all concerned parties to seize this opportunity to engage constructively with our current efforts to swiftly resume political consultations to agree on a framework for political negotiations,” he said in a statement.
“We remain committed to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month.” Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are in a US-backed coalition fighting Shia Houthi rebels in Yemen, are ready for talks.
London welcomes Washington’s stance
“We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can’t say we are going to do it some time in the future,” Mattis said at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.
“We need to be doing this in the next 30 days,” he added.
Mattis said the US is calling for the warring sides to meet Griffiths in Sweden in November.
British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the US position on Wednesday and said Griffiths had spoken to Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt the previous evening. “They agreed that the UK will continue to encourage all parties to agree to de-escalation, and to that lasting political deal, which will ensure that any ceasefire will hold in the long-term,” she told parliament.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Houthis in 2015.
The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Houthis back, but the rebels still hold the key port city of Hodeida and the capital Sanaa.
After UN-backed talks collapsed in September, the coalition announced it was re-launching an assault on Hodeida, whose port serves as an entry point for more than 70 per cent of imports into the impoverished country.
Yemeni government officials said on Tuesday that the coalition had deployed 10,000 new troops to the Red Sea coast, ahead of a new offensive on Hodeida “within days”.
Some 110 rebels have been killed in air strikes in Hodeida province in the past three days, including 23 killed on Wednesday, three medics from different hospitals in the area said.
Two military officials with pro-government forces said three air strikes were conducted on Wednesday, after the US call for negotiations, while 15 have been carried out since Monday.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since 2015 and the country now stands at the brink of famine, with more than 22 million Yemenis — three quarters of the population — in need of humanitarian assistance.
The United States has faced fierce international criticism for its role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition, especially after a series of strikes killed scores of civilians.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for an end to all coalition air strikes in Yemen’s populated areas.
“The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV (drone) strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” he said in a statement.
“Subsequently, coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen.”
Published in Dawn, November 1st, 2018