UN envoy urges Yemen’s Houthis to accept ceasefire agreement | Voice of America
NEW YORK – The UN special envoy for Yemen said on Tuesday “the time is not on Yemen’s side” and urged Houthi rebels to come to the negotiating table to discuss a ceasefire fire and a political settlement of the conflict more than six years old.
“Ending a war is a choice,” Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council during his last briefing as envoy. “Yemeni men, women and children suffer every day because those in power have missed the opportunities presented to them to make the necessary concessions to end the war. “
Griffiths spent three years trying to negotiate an end to the conflict between the rebels and the government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi. Next month, the envoy will take on a perhaps even greater challenge as the UN official in charge of global humanitarian crises, succeeding Mark Lowcock, who has held the post for four years.
In March, the Saudis, who militarily support Hadi, proposed a nationwide ceasefire. It included the reopening of Sana’a airport and joint access to taxes and fees of the country’s main seaport in Hodeidah. Political talks would follow. The proposal has been met with little enthusiasm by the rebels, who control most of the country’s territory.
Griffiths told the council on video conference Tuesday that the Houthis were demanding separate agreements on Hodeidah and Sana’a airport as a precondition for the start of ceasefire negotiations. Hadi’s government insists that the issues be combined and implemented into a single package, with an emphasis on the ceasefire.
“Now we have come up with different solutions to fill these positions,” he said. “Unfortunately, so far none of these suggestions have been accepted.”
At the request of Saudi Arabia, Oman recently embarked on a round of mediation with the Houthis. Griffiths told reporters he hoped to hear more from Omanis about the outcome of his flight to Riyadh on Wednesday.
But Iran-backed rebels have repeatedly built hope for a truce over the years to crush them.
Asked what is different now, Griffiths said a change could allow the Houthis to move from being an international pariah to being part of a legitimate government. They would also be better seen to help end the war and could open the door to international support for post-conflict reconstruction.
“It is wrong to underestimate the human desire to do the right thing and to appear to be doing the right thing,” he added.
The relentless suffering
Yemen, the poorest nation in the Middle East before its civil war broke out, is now the world’s biggest humanitarian emergency. According to the United Nations, 16 million Yemenis suffer from hunger due to war and economic collapse. Some 5 million people are on the brink of famine, while 50,000 people have already fallen into near-starvation conditions.
UN humanitarian chief Lowcock told the council that international aid was able to stop a major famine in Yemen in 2018 and 2019. He said there were warning signs they could again avoid a major famine this year, but he warned that it is still too early to be certain and that much depends on what happens over the next three months.
Lowcock said aid agencies help more than 10 million people in Yemen each month, but their operations are still not adequately funded. More than $ 200 million in pledges at a donor conference in March are still pending, jeopardizing programs.
“In August, UNICEF will cut fuel aid for water and sanitation systems serving 3.4 million people,” he said. “In September, the World Health Organization will stop providing the minimum service package that provides health care to 6 million people. And the cuts will intensify from there.
Lowcock warned that the risk of starvation, disease – including COVID-19 – and displacement has not gone away.
“And if more money doesn’t come in, more people will die.”