Martin Griffiths: Yemen has quietest week since start of war

TheUnited Nations special envoy to Yemen told the UN Security Council the country experienced its quietest week since the civil war began in 2015

Martin Griffith, Special Envoy for Yemen of the UN Secretary General speaks during a press conference at the Johannesberg Palace in Stockholm, Sweden on December 10, 2018. The Sweden talks mark the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people since 2015 and triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. - Sweden OUT
 / AFP / TT News Agency / Stina Stjernkvist
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Yemen experienced its quietest week since the civil war began in 2015, the United Nations special envoy to the country said on Thursday.

At an open briefing of the UN Security Council, Martin Griffiths said that any immediate crisis in the country was over as a result of the "actions of many".

“Most importantly, in this time of [regional] crisis, we have seen no major acts of military provocation in Yemen. This is remarkable. Indeed, it has been one of the quietest weeks in Yemen since the war began,” he said. “Yemeni leaders and leaders from the region have deliberately exercised restraint and withheld from acts of provocation.”

Mr Griffiths praised the internationally recognised government and the Southern Transitional Council on the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement, a power-sharing arrangement signed between the two in November.

"The parties' recommitment to time-bound measures to support the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement is a positive sign," he said.

"I know firsthand that there are daily detailed negotiations and I hope that we will see key appointments in the next days."

The development came as Houthi rebels and government forces pulled back from Zinjibar, the capital of southern Abyan province, as outlined in the agreement.

The withdrawal is the first under the Saudi Arabia-brokered deal.

On Wednesday, a Yemen-based Saudi media spokesman, Nasser Hibtar, said that both sides had also released dozens of prisoners and that a Saudi-led committee arrived in Abyan to discuss withdrawal from other important sites.

Under the peace deal, the separatists are also expected to turn in their weapons and eventually become incorporated into the government-controlled police force.

"The release of six Saudi detainees by [the Houthis] on January 1 is further evidence of goodwill between the parties," Mr Griffiths said.

The civil war in Yemen began when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran most of north Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, pushing out President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi's government.

Mr Hadi later fled to Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom intervened in the conflict a year later, forming the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that has since battled the Houthis.

Yemenis continue to be displaced from conflict areas, with almost 400,000 people driven from their homes in 2019.

“With each positive step, we are brought closer to formally launching political consultations between the government of Yemen and the Houthis,” Mr Griffiths said.