United Nations: The UN envoy for Yemen has said that deep divisions between the warring parties in Yemen are preventing him from calling for a new round of peace talks. Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the UN Security Council yesterday that the parties are divided over whether a new round of talks should be convened without a cessation of hostilities.
He said he hasn't received sufficient assurances that if he called for a cessation of hostilities it would be respected. The Arab world's poorest country has been plagued by fighting between its internationally recognised government, backed by a Saudi-led, US-supported coalition, and Shiite Houthi rebels allied with former President Ali Abdulla Saleh.
Peace talks had been expected to resume the week of Jan. 11 but were postponed following renewed fighting and airstrikes. Cheikh Ahmed urged the Security Council to act to implement a cessation of hostilities as soon as possible.
The UN envoy painted a grim picture of a country gripped by deteriorating security, a humanitarian crisis, and an upsurge in attacks by "terrorist groups." "Many parts of Yemen are again witnessing airstrikes and extensive ground fighting," he said. "There has also been a significant increase in the number of missiles fired indiscriminately into Saudi Arabia."
Cheikh Ahmed said the absence of a national government in many parts of Yemen has facilitated the expansion of extremist groups. "Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are present in many parts of Yemeni territory," Cheikh Ahmed said.
"There are reports of their growing influence in large areas of the governorate of Hadramout and their control of its port, maritime traffic, and illegal oil trade." The UN humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that a catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen. Stephen O'Brien cited more than 35,000 casualties since March 2015 including over 6,000 deaths; at least 7.6 million people lacking access to food; more than 3.4 million children out of school; and nearly 600 health facilities and over 1,170 schools unfit for use because of the conflict.