UN working with Saudi Arabia on Yemen peace after US plan fails

Deputy chief says UN is working closely with countries in the region to bring warring parties back to negotiating table.

A man rides past a house destroyed during recent battles between Houthi rebels and pro-government fighters in Taez city in the south-west Yemen on November 18, 2016. Anees Mahyoub / Reuters
Powered by automated translation

GENEVA // The United Nations said on Friday it was working with Saudi Arabia to try to bring Yemen’s government to peace talks after it rejected a plan brokered by the United States this week.

“We are working very closely with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region that can influence [the parties to the conflict],” the UN deputy Secretary general Jan Eliasson said in Geneva.

“We have discovered a stronger and stronger view that this war must come to an end but we have to bring them back to negotiating table,” he said, giving no timeline.

Fighting raged in Taez on Friday as pro-government forces pressed on with a four-day-old offensive to recapture the presidential residence and police headquarters in the south-western city, while the Houthi rebels brought in reinforcements.

Doctors Without Borders said the fighting had resulted in heavy casualties.

“Fighting has been intensive in Taez during recent days, and hospitals on both sides of the front line have received a continuous influx of war-wounded civilians and fighters,” the medical charity said.

Loyalist military sources said on Friday that 13 rebels and eight pro-government forces were killed over the previous 24 hours. Two civilians were also killed and 16 wounded when rebels fired Katyusha rockets into a residential area of Taez, they said.

The Houthis claimed there had been dozens of casualties when a local market was shelled.

Fighting between government forces and rebels was to have stopped on Thursday under a ceasefire plan proposed by the US secretary of state John Kerry following talks with Houthi representatives in the Omani capital on Monday.

The Houthis said on Wednesday they were ready to stop fighting and join a national unity government, raising hopes of a resolution to a conflict that has killed more than 7,000 people since March last year.

But president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi’s administration rejected Mr Kerry’s plan, saying that it played into the hands of the rebels and sidelined the government.

* Reuters and Agence France-Presse