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War-hit Yemen closest ever to peace: UN envoy

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
UN special envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed ©AFP

The United Nations special envoy for Yemen says reconciliation between warring sides to the conflict gripping the Arab country has never been as close as it is now.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Friday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said both Houthi Ansarullah fighters and Saudi-backed loyalists to Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, Yemen’s former president, had “never been so close to peace.”

The two parties’ consensus on an open-ended ceasefire that began at midnight on April 10 and their commitment to attend peace negotiations due in Kuwait on April 18 highlights the potential for peace, he added.

They last sat down for discussions in the Swiss city of Geneva in December 2015. However, the six-day talks ended with no major breakthrough and led to a shaky truce that officially ended on January 2 following repeated breaches mainly by Saudis.

Elsewhere in his comments, Ahmed said the developments over the last weeks have raised hope despite “a worrying number of serious violations” of the latest truce.

He also called on both sides to the Yemeni conflict to “drop their destructive and belligerent attitudes,” agree to overcome obstacles and restore peace.

“Yemen is now at a critical crossroad,” said the UN official, adding, “One path leads to peace while the other can only worsen the security and humanitarian situation.”

He further emphasized that a positive outcome in the peace talks will require “difficult compromises from all sides, as well as determination to reach an agreement.”

A Yemeni child stands in the rubble of buildings destroyed in an airstrike by Saudi Arabia in the capital city of Sana’a on February 25, 2016. ©AFP

The Houthi Ansarullah fighters took state matters into their own hands after the resignation and escape of Hadi, which threw Yemen into a state of uncertainty and threatened a total security breakdown in the country, where an al-Qaeda affiliate is present.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a deadly military campaign against Yemen since March 26, 2015 in a bid to reinstate Hadi and undermine the Houthi movement.

Riyadh’s military has turned a blind eye to the new ceasefire agreement and continues its bombing campaign against Yemen. Ansarullah has in recent days recorded tens of truce violations by the Saudis and their allies.

Over 9,400 Yemenis, including 4,000 women and children, have lost their lives in the Saudi airstrikes.

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