Yemen envoy summit in Berlin hears of Houthi offensive's devastating effects

UN calls for nationwide ceasefire, free movement on roads and the opening of Sanaa airport

U.S. special envoy for Yemen Timothy Lenderking, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths take off their face masks before adressing a news conference following talks at the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, Germany April 12, 2021. John MacDougall/Pool via REUTERS

A recent Houthi offensive in Yemen is set to heighten the "disastrous humanitarian situation" in the country, Germany's Foreign Minister said.

Heiko Maas said that "fighting on the ground continues in all intensity and brutality", despite political efforts to bring peace.

“The human suffering is hard to describe,” he said at a press conference in Berlin alongside the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

“The offensive of the Houthis surrounding the city of Marib threatens to exacerbate the disastrous humanitarian situation.

“Giving up, or to desensitise [ourselves] vis-à-vis the suffering in Yemen, is not an option. We must not forget the people in Yemen.”

“The offensive of the Houthis surrounding the city of Marib threatens to exacerbate the disastrous humanitarian situation.

Mr Griffiths said after meeting Mr Maas on Monday that talks on the Yemen conflict had reached a “critical moment”.

“The only solution to end this tragedy is through a negotiated political settlement that meets the aspirations of Yemen’s women and Yemen's men,” he said.

“I believe we must address first the critical humanitarian needs and build confidence between the parties.”

A UN plan calls for a nationwide ceasefire and the opening of major roads connecting the north to the south, which would allow civilians and humanitarian aid to move freely, the envoy said.

The UN hopes to secure the opening of Sana’a airport to domestic and international flights to ensure the free flow of fuel.

The Yemen conflict cannot be solved militarily

“We hope together that an agreement on all those humanitarian measures will create a conducive environment for the parties to move swiftly to inclusive peace talks under the auspices of the UN,” Mr Griffiths said.

“I believe this is a moment for decisions. This is a moment for responsible leadership and I finally reiterate my call to the parties to seize the opportunity that exists now and negotiate in good faith without pre-conditions.”

The parties should “listen to the calls of the international community to end this conflict” in order to “return Yemen to the people of Yemen”, he said.

Mr Maas called for continued efforts to find a political solution, which he described as “the only way of improving the situation sustainably”.

“The Yemen conflict cannot be solved militarily. This is my impression, and this has become clear to all stakeholders involved,” he said.

Mr Maas was holding talks with US special envoy Tim Lenderking on Monday along with representatives from Britain, France, China, Russia, Kuwait, Sweden and the EU.