The UN's senior official in Yemen has warned that the Arab world's poorest country will remain a powder keg for renewed war unless its rival factions work out a new ceasefire deal.
Hans Grundberg, UN special representative for Yemen, said the situation in the country was fragile nearly a year after the internationally recognised government and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels failed to renew a UN-brokered ceasefire.
The conflict has been restrained since then, with only sporadic clashes, but Mr Grundberg said there was a risk of a resumption of all-out fighting.
“The risk of a flare-up is always there,” he told the Associated Press.
“The situation remains fragile and will remain fragile until we have reached an agreement that offers a ceasefire agreement.”
The end to the ceasefire arrangement was a blow to UN efforts to find a negotiated settlement to the conflict, which has devastated Yemen and created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
Yemen’s war began when the Houthis seized the capital of Sanaa in 2014.
Speaking after meeting with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in Cairo, Mr Grundberg noted Yemen's warring parties have separately been involved in peace efforts in recent months.
However, more effort is needed to establish a firm nationwide ceasefire and restart political talks on ending the conflict, he said.
The envoy welcomed international and regional efforts to end the conflict, including direct discussions between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.
He said such efforts would help the UN to come up with a proposal for a nationwide ceasefire and the start of political talks between Yemeni factions to end the war.
“The fact that there's direct discussions continuing between the Houthis and the Saudis can be of support … to the UN mediation efforts,” Mr Grundberg said.
The Saudi-Houthi talks gained momentum after the kingdom reached an agreement with Iran in March to restore diplomatic ties after a seven-year rift.
Saudi Arabia and the Houthis agreed to a draft deal to revive a ceasefire and usher in a return to direct Yemeni political talks under the auspices of the UN, Saudi and Houthi officials have said.
Yemen’s government has said it was briefed on the Saudi-Houthi talks and had given initial approval to an earlier draft deal.
However, the move towards peace has been stalled by several points of dispute, including the payment of salaries for military personnel and civilians in Houthi-held areas, and guarantees that the rebels will engage in a political process with the other Yemeni factions, officials said.
“There is a unity among the international actors on the need for the Yemeni conflict to be resolved, and also about the fact that the United Nations is the main the mediator,” Mr Grundberg said.