UN Yemen envoy encouraged by further peace talks

Country has seen relative calm since April

Yemen Hans Grundberg leaves Sana'a International Airport in Yemen for a meeting with Houthi officials. EPA
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The UN has expressed hope for peace talks in Yemen, while cautioning that negotiations must be more “inclusive” after a series of faltering ceasefires this year.

Yemen’s eight-year conflict saw its first glimpse of relative calm in April when the internationally recognised government and Iran-backed Houthi militias agreed to a ceasefire, although the government accused the militias of violating the truce on several occasions.

The ceasefire came after heavy fighting for the oil-rich governorate of Marib in the centre of the country, and an ongoing siege of the city of Taiz in Yemen’s highlands, north-west of Aden.

Hans Grundberg, addressing a UN Security Council briefing more than three months after an initial truce pact expired, said "we are witnessing a potential step change" in the conflict's trajectory though the situation remained "complex and fluid".

The United Nations has been pushing for an extended and broader deal encompassing a mechanism to pay public sector wages, which the Houthis had criticised for not including armed forces members.

Mr Grundberg, speaking from the Houthi-held capital Sanaa, thanked Saudi Arabia and Oman for their diplomacy and said discussions in the past month have developed "options for mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding issues".

But he advised against a "piecemeal approach" focused on individual needs, saying talks on short-term steps should be part of a broader approach towards a sustainable resolution of a multifaceted conflict in which several parties are vying for power.

Saudi Arabia, which intervened in Yemen at the head of a military coalition in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa, has been trying to extricate itself from a costly war in which it has faced Houthi missile and drone attacks.

The head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi Al Mashat, said in remarks on Houthi-run media on Monday that the talks with a Omani team were positive and, departing from past rhetoric, stressed the movement's desire for regional stability.

The UN envoy said that while key elements of the initial pact were holding, continued limited military activity on front lines and "escalatory political and economic measures" could reignite violence. The deal allowed some fuel shipments into Houthi-held Hodeidah port and commercial flights from Sanaa.

Updated: January 17, 2023, 4:48 AM