The UN's Yemen envoy urged the country's warring parties on Wednesday to “seize the opportunity” presented by the recent diplomatic detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran to end the decade-long conflict.
“Intense diplomatic efforts are continuing at different levels to bring the conflict in Yemen to an end,” Hans Grundberg, UN Special Envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council.
The UN envoy insisted that dialogue and good neighbourly relations were important for the region and for Yemen.
“The parties must seize the opportunity presented by this regional and international momentum to take decisive steps towards a more peaceful future,” he said.
“This requires patience and a long-term perspective. And this requires courage and leadership. Much has been achieved over the past year and now it is time to [take] the next step.”
With negotiations between Saudi Arabia and the Houthi rebels under way in Geneva, Riyadh's recent diplomatic rapprochement with Iran has brought cautious optimism for a more durable peace in Yemen.
The UN-brokered peace deal that halted the fighting expired in October, though diplomacy has continued and full-scale conflict has not resumed.
The truce collapsed when the Houthis demanded Saudi Arabia pay the salaries not only of government workers but also of soldiers in the areas they control.
Mr Grundberg said the truce “can only be a stepping stone” and there is an urgent need to work towards a nationwide ceasefire and an inclusive political settlement to end the conflict in Yemen.
Switzerland's ambassador to the UN Pascale Baeriswyl stressed that, after eight years of conflict, there was “no time for hesitation” and urged the warring parties to engage “resolutely to silence the weapons for good”.
“We must respond to these legitimate aspirations without delay. The decision by Saudi Arabia and Iran to re-establish diplomatic relations last week is an important signal for peace and stability in the region,” said Ms Baeriswyl.
US ambassador for special political affairs Jeffrey DeLaurentis urged the Iran-backed Houthis to work with the UN and keep the war-torn country on the “path to peace”.
Mr DeLaurentis said he hopes that the recently announced agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran would address the “continued flow of Iranian lethal aid to the Houthis and ensure Iranian support for a Yemeni political process”.
Also at the Security Council on Wednesday, Joyce Msuya, assistant secretary general for humanitarian affairs, updated members on the progress of the 45-year-old tanker that is decaying off the coast of Yemen.
Last week, the UN Development Programme announced the purchase of a new ship that will remove the oil. The new vessel should arrive in Hodeidah in May.
Mr DeLaurentis called on the UN to move forward as “expeditiously as possible” with the offloading operation and called on donors to help raise the additional $34 million in funding needed to finish the project before September.