The United Nations envoy to Yemen warned on Sunday that the war-torn country faces a “critical time” and urged steps towards lasting peace, just a year after a ceasefire collapsed.
Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg called the UN-brokered cease-fire, which came into effect in April 2022, a “moment of hope” and said it was largely holding, despite lapses in October.
“But the most significant promise of the ceasefire is its ability to initiate a comprehensive political process aimed at ending the conflict comprehensively and sustainably,” said the special envoy of the secretary-general of the United Nations United in a statement.
Nearly a decade of war in Yemen has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, directly and indirectly, and sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
“Significant risks remain,” Grundberg said, seeking to “protect and build on the gains of the ceasefire towards a more humanitarian relief, a national ceasefire and a sustainable political settlement that will fulfill the aspirations of the women and men of Yemen”.
A landmark reconciliation deal announced last month between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the two regional powers that back rival sides in the Yemen war, added to the optimism that began last year with the ceasefire.
Riyadh leads a military coalition on behalf of Yemen’s ousted government and Tehran backs the Huthi rebels, who seized control of the capital in 2014.
Amid renewed deadly fighting and warnings from the rebels, the UN envoy said: “The military, economic and rhetorical escalation in recent weeks is a reminder of the fragility of the peace gains.”
He urged the government and Huthis to “sit together and engage in a serious and responsible dialogue” that would lead to a “peaceful solution to the conflict”.
Yemen remains deeply fractured along regional, confessional and political lines, and is riddled with rival factions including Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
“At this critical juncture, any new temporary or partial settlement must include a clear commitment from the parties to ensure that it is a step towards a peaceful solution… in an inclusive political process,” Grundberg said.
“Moments like now are fleeting and transient,” he warned.
“More than ever, now is the time for dialogue, compromise, and a show of leadership and a serious will to achieve peace.”