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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

UN Yemen envoy asks Oman to play larger role in resolving 'catastrophic' conflict

 Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed met with the Omani foreign minister in the hope of seeking a “speedy” solution a year after a breakdown in talks in Kuwait.

Members of a Yemeni military demining unit prepare to destroy unexploded bombs and mines collected from conflict areas near the southern port city of Aden, Yemen August 1, 2017. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman
Members of a Yemeni military demining unit prepare to destroy unexploded bombs and mines collected from conflict areas near the southern port city of Aden, Yemen August 1, 2017. REUTERS/Fawaz Salman

MUSCAT // The UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, wants Oman to take a deeper role in ending the conflict as he pushes for a restart of peace talks.

Mr Cheikh Ahmed met with the Omani foreign minister, Yusuf bin Abdullah Alawi, in the hope of seeking a “speedy” solution a year after a breakdown in talks in Kuwait to end the war that has killed 8,000 people and displaced millions.

“The UN Yemen envoy would like Oman to go deeper in its mediation to seek a speedy solution between the Houthis and the Yemeni president,” an Omani government official told The National. “He wants Oman to use its influence to bring the two sides for talks to solve their differences in an amicable way.”

Mr Alawi said Oman would “fast track” its mediation role in the hope of persuading the two sides to agree to a UN plan to end the conflict and resume peace talks, official added.

Mr Cheikh Ahmed described the meeting late on Wednesday as very positive and that Oman “stresses the need to end the conflict in Yemen and renewed its support for the efforts of the United Nations”

Earlier he said on Twitter he would be holding meetings in the region this week and next week to “activate the peace process and to put an end to the catastrophic situation in Yemen”.

The war in Yemen started after Houthi rebels seized control of the capital Sanaa and forced the internationally-recognised government to flee. An Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and including the UAE intervened in March 2015 after the rebels, who are backed by Iran and allied with the former president, overran Aden.

The last UN-backed talks broke down in August 2016 with Mr Cheikh Ahmed blaming a deficit in trust between the parties.

The focus, he said at the time, should have been on the necessity of offering concessions and advancing a step towards the other side so that the other side can advance a step in return.

The Yemeni government says talks must be based on a UN Security Council resolution that calls for the rebels give up their weapons and withdraw from cities as a precondition to any peace agreement.

But subsequent ceasefires and attempts to bring the parties together have been short-lived and little progress towards a political solution has been made in the last year.

Oman, which shares a porous 300km border with Yemen, is deeply invested in finding a resolution to the conflict,” Ahmed Al Falahy, a political commentator and a former Omani diplomat, told The National. He said the Sultanate had accepted thousands of Yemeni refugees.

“Oman wants to see a quick end to this conflict not only for the refugee problems but the country is aware that its position of political neutrality in the region is a delicate one when one takes into account that Yemen is a conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.”

A UN official in the region said both sides need to understand the consequences of a continued conflict. She said if the humanitarian issue is not enough international pressure to bring the warring sides together, then governments involved in the conflict must consider their responsibility in stepping in to bring Yemen back from the brink of disaster.

The UN has described Yemen as the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world”, warning that 80 per cent of country’s children need aid. Some 400,000 Yemenis have contracted cholera in an outbreak that has killed 2,000 people.

Fighting has recently intensified with clashes near Mokha on Yemen’s Red Sea coast killing more than 40 troops and rebels at the beginning of this week.

Naser Al Wasmi reported from Abu Dhabi

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