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UN says Yemen facing 'critical time', urges more steps toward lasting peace in war-torn country

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg (file photo)

The United Nations has urged the warring sides in Yemen to seize the opportunity created by the UN-brokered truce and take more serious steps toward realization of a permanent peace in the war-ravaged country.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia started a war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to return the country's former Riyadh-friendly government to power. Although the coalition has failed to achieve any of its goal, the war has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis and turned the entire country into the scene of what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Speaking on Sunday, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg described a truce that was brokered by the world body between the invading coalition and Yemen’s National Salvation Government last April as a "moment of hope," despite the fact that it has not been renewed since October last year.

The UN official said the truce is largely holding despite its expiry, urging the warring parties to use it as a ground for achieving a lasting political settlement  to the conflict.

"The truce's most significant promise is its potential to jumpstart an inclusive political process aimed at comprehensively and sustainably ending the conflict," Grundberg said.

Yemen’s armed forces have said they would remain committed to the truce as long as the other parties to the conflict respected it too.

"At this critical time, any new temporary or partial arrangement needs to include a clear commitment from the parties that ensures it is a step on the course of a peaceful solution... in an inclusive political process," the UN official noted.

Grundberg added, "More than ever, now is the time for dialogue, compromises, and a demonstration of leadership and serious will to achieve peace."

His remarks came a day after Yemen's military threatened to launch "surprising" strikes on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates -- Riyadh's main partner in the war -- if the aggressor countries committed any "foolish act."

"The aggression is coming to an end and the armed forces are determined to expel every occupier from the country... Our message to the invaders is that what you did not achieve over the past eight years, you will not get in the future,” said spokesman for the Yemeni armed forces, Brigadier General Yahya Saree.

He added, “Our advice to those who are still in the ranks of the aggressors is that the door is still open and they should return to their villages and families before the door is closed. They should learn lessons from eight years of war.”

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