Yemen peace talks failing weeks after revived US-Saudi push

US President Joe Biden and Saudi leadership's bid to end Yemen's war is not gaining traction

A revived effort under the administration of US President Joe Biden to end Yemen’s war seemed to be faltering on Wednesday when the UN’s envoy to the country said peace talks had hit a roadblock.

The UN envoy, Martin Griffiths, said a week-long round of talks in Saudi Arabia and Oman. involving Mr Biden’s envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, had failed to make progress, as a Houthi rebel offensive on the government-held city of Marib continued.

“We have been discussing these issues for over a year now,” Mr Griffiths said. “The international community has been supporting us in full force.

"Unfortunately, we are not where we would like to be in reaching a deal. Meanwhile, the war has continued unabated, causing immense suffering to the civilian population.”

The Biden administration sought to bring an end to Yemen’s conflict by withdrawing support for the battle against Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

Saudi Arabia announced a peace plan in March that would lead to blockades on the country being lifted and a UN-supervised truce between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of the north.

This week’s negotiations involving Mr Griffiths and Mr Lenderking were aimed at advancing that ceasefire, but are understood to have been complicated by the Houthi assault on Marib, the government’s last northern stronghold.

The assault has condemned by the UN and much of the international community.

Analysts say the conflict is also enmeshed in broader tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran, amid the Biden administration’s efforts to revive an international deal restricting Tehran’s nuclear programme.

“I will keep engaging the parties to the conflict and all involved and concerned actors and stakeholders to offer them opportunities to find common ground to help advance the peace efforts,” Mr Griffiths said.

The Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after a request from the internationally recognised government, which the Houthis drove from Sanaa.

The war has created what the US calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with about 80 per cent of the country’s population of 29 million needing aid and 13 million facing famine.

Torrential rains and flooding have worsened the suffering across much of Yemen since mid-April and affected more than 22,000 people, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday.

“Intensified rain over recent days has caused multiple deaths and injuries, as well as large-scale damage to infrastructure, homes and shelters,” Mr Dujarric said.

“Humanitarian partners are mobilising to scale up the response.”

Updated: May 6, 2021 02:50 AM

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