Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Yemen envoy urges broad push for peace after Riyadh agreement

Martin Griffiths says fighting has reduced dramatically in the last two weeks

UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks at the UN Security Council in May 2019. Manuel ELIAS / UNITED NATIONS / AFP.
UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks at the UN Security Council in May 2019. Manuel ELIAS / UNITED NATIONS / AFP.

Martin Griffiths, the United Nations' special envoy for Yemen, on Friday hailed recent positive steps that have reduced fighting but said further compromises would be needed to reach a political settlement.

His remarks came two weeks after an agreement was reached in Riyadh that will see Yemen's Aden-based government share power with the secessionist Southern Transitional Council.

Mr Griffiths said the 86 days of Saudi-brokered talks that led to that deal had shown that peace is possible if everyone comes to the table.

“A leader in peace is one who practises the art of concession, of inclusion, and who encourages forbearance over entitlement,” he told the UN Security Council, noting that there had been a reduction in nationwide violence since the Riyadh agreement.

“It should serve as a catalyst toward moving Yemen swiftly forward to settling this conflict through political means.”

The agreement ended instability in Aden which began in August when the STC took control of government buildings, opening up a new fissure in the country's five-year war.

Mr Griffiths said the rest of Yemen had seen less fighting, with an almost 80 per cent reduction in air strikes in the past two weeks.

There had also been no missile or drone strikes since Houthi rebels – who are fighting the Arab-led coalition and government forces – announced a halt to such attacks on September 20.

“Efforts to de-escalate violence are holding,” Mr Griffiths said.

UN diplomats say a next step could be an international conference to build on last year's Stockholm Agreement, where Yemen's government and the rebels agreed a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

Ambassador Karen Pierce, Britain’s permanent representative at the UN, said: “It’s important that the Riyadh agreement and de-escalation efforts are integrated into a wider, inclusive political process.

UN diplomats say a next step could be an international conference to build on last year's Stockholm Agreement, where Yemen's government and the rebels agreed a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, the most important entry point for humanitarian aid.

Mr Griffiths said there had been progress in implementing the truce.

A new government method of depositing taxes and customs fees for commercial oil and gas shipments has averted a crisis and allowed fuel ships to enter Hodeidah, he said.

The warring parties “have also strengthened their adherence to the ceasefire” by establishing a new de-escalation mechanism that cut the number of security incidents in the region by 40 per cent – and by 80 per cent in Hodeidah city.

But the special envoy also expressed concern at increased restrictions on the movement of UN staff overseeing implementation of the Hodeidah agreement. The truce does not apply to the rest of the country and it has been repeatedly breached by the rebels.

UN deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told the council of “an alarming increase in violence and harassment targeting humanitarian workers” in areas controlled by the Houthis.

She pointed to artillery shelling that hit a market in Saada two days ago, reportedly killing and wounding dozens of civilians, and an attack that badly damaged a hospital in the town of Al Mukha in Taez governorate two weeks ago.

She also commended new funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan in Yemen by "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the United States and others"

"New funding since September from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, the United States and others has enabled agencies to re-open suspended programmes," she said.

Updated: November 23, 2019 12:41 PM

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