A deep divide between the warring parties in Yemen, following the collapse of a truce, is forestalling the next round of peace talks, the United Nations envoy told the Security Council today as he depicted a tragic picture of the political situation there.
“The parties are divided over whether a new round of talks should be convened with or without a new cessation of hostilities,” said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, in a briefing to the 15-nation body. “I have not, unfortunately, received sufficient assurances that a new cessation of hostilities, should I call for one, would be respected.”
As the Secretary General has stated repeatedly, there is no military solution to this conflict, he said, stressing that a recommitment to a cessation of hostilities is the practical expression of this truth as it leads to a permanent ceasefire. He then urged the Council to support this step and promptly take action towards its implementation.
His briefing comes two months after the warring parties met in Switzerland, for the first face-to-face talks of the peace process. Those talks produced agreements on several measures and provided much-needed practical and moral support to the Yemeni people, including the delivery of humanitarian aid to the city of Taiz and the release of some prisoners.
Recalling that the announcement of a cessation of hostilities on the first day of the talks was accompanied by the creation of a De-escalation and Coordination Committee, he noted that the talks have served as the beginning of a process toward ending the war, and the parties left the negotiation table in a positive spirit, with practical proposals, recommendations and hope for a better future for Yemen and the Yemeni people.
Tragically, the security situation in Yemen has deteriorated since the end of the talks, he said, citing the latest UN reports that more than 6,000 Yemenis have lost their lives since March 2015, and more than 35,000 have been injured.
“Many parts of Yemen are again witnessing airstrikes and extensive ground fighting,” Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed said, pointing to a significant increase in the number of missiles fired indiscriminately into Saudi Arabia, a notable upsurge in the number and magnitude of attacks carried out by terrorist groups in Aden, Lahej, Abyan, Shabwa and Sana’a.
“The list goes on,” he said, with attacks on Yemeni Army checkpoints and residences of key security officials, the assassination of prominent political and security officials in the South of the country, and the 28 January attack on the Presidential Palace in Aden, which resulted in the death of eight people including civilian bystanders.
Earlier today, a suicide bomber attacked a Yemeni army camp in Aden, reportedly killing at least ten people, said Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are present in many parts of Yemeni territory, he said, adding that 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.
“A new cessation of hostilities will open the way of new talks and agreements on Yemen's return to a peaceful and orderly transition,” he said.
On Tuesday, the Security Council heard a briefing by Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who called for an end to the “humanitarian catastrophe” unfolding in Yemen.
Separately today, Adama Dieng, Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and Jennifer Welsh, Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, issued a joint statement expressing concern at the heavy toll on civilians of the conflict in Yemen.
The two Special Advisers noted that one year after the escalation of the conflict in Yemen, the world is witnessing the erosion of respect for international humanitarian and human rights law on a daily basis in the country. Civilians and civilian infrastructures continue to be targeted by all parties to the conflict, to the point that the attention of the international media has largely become saturated.
“We call on the international community – and notably on the Security Council - to take action to end this unacceptable situation,” they said, underlining that serious abuses and violations of human rights law and of international humanitarian law by all sides and their allied forces have been extensively documented, including by the United Nations. Evidence gathered suggests that some of these violations may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We acknowledge that the parties have expressed regret at the number of civilian casualties and have committed to the principle of accountability,” the Special Advisers observed. “We now expect that commitments by the Yemeni authorities and by Saudi Arabia to conduct credible and independent investigations into all alleged violations and provide reparations to victims will be swiftly implemented,” they said.