The United Nations envoy for Yemen told the Security Council today that the military escalation in Yemen will provide opportunities for the spread of terrorist groups, as Al Qaida and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continue to wreak havoc in many parts of Yemen.
“For example, a suicide attack in Aden killed and injured tens of Yemenis on 29 August. The Yemeni Army’s growing ability to confront extremist groups, evidenced by the recent detention of suspected AQAP [Al Qaida in the Arab Peninsula] militants in Zinjibar and Hadramout, is encouraging,” the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, , Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told the Council.
“However, the absence of the state in many parts of Yemen, in addition to the chaos created by war, will continue to facilitate the expansion of the terrorist groups which represents a real threat to the region,” he added.
Yemen has been engulfed in violence for several years now – a confrontation between the country’s Houthis (Ansar Allah) and the Government of Yemen in early 2014 led to a Houthi advance on the capital in 2014, and an ensuing conflict which has involved support from outside parties. The United Nations has been heavily involved in efforts to resolve the crisis, and repeatedly said that there is no military solution to the Yemeni crises and has called for a return to peaceful negotiations.
Until they recently went into a break, Kuwait had been hosting peace talks – facilitated by the UN envoy – with the Yemeni sides. The break went into effect in early August.
In reference to these talks, Mr. Cheikh Ahmed said the recent departure from Kuwait without an agreement had betrayed the expectations of millions of Yemenis who had hoped that the talks would bring an end to the conflict and open the way for Yemen’s return to a peaceful and orderly transition.
The end of the Kuwait talks was followed by a “severe breakdown of the Cessation of Hostilities and a dangerous escalation in military activities,” the UN envoy said.
“Extensive military confrontations,” he continued, “have been on-going in recent weeks in Sana’a, Taiz, Al Jawf, Shabwa and Mareb governorates and along the border between Yemen and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” and “have involved the use of artillery, airstrikes and ballistic missiles and have resulted in tens of casualties, extensive destruction and renewed displacement.”
The Special Envoy also highlighted numerous violations of international humanitarian and human rights law that he said have accompanied the fighting. Some of these incidents – such as an attack on a rural hospital in Hajjah – have been strongly condemned by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
During the briefing, Mr. Cheikh Ahmed also highlighted what he called a “worrying disrespect for the human rights of minority groups,” as documented by human rights organisations. Citing the detention, in Sana’a, of at least 60 members of the Baha’i community, including six children, without charge, he echoed the call from the human rights groups “for the immediate release of those still in detention, while appealing to all parties to fulfil their obligations and release all prisoners and detainees.”
The Special Envoy also said that from his meetings with representatives of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States, and again with the Foreign Ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states, there was consensus on the need for a full and comprehensive political solution, “involving clearly sequenced political and security measures, firmly grounded in the GCC initiative and its implementation mechanism, Security Council resolution 2216 (2015) and the National Dialogue Conference outcomes.”
He said, however, that the resumption of talks will only be possible if all the parties maintain their commitment to a negotiated settlement and refrain from unilateral actions.
“I am extremely concerned by the announcement by Ansar Allah and former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, of the formation of a Supreme Political Council with broad administrative, security, economic, and legislative powers,” Mr. Cheikh Ahmed said. “These actions breach the commitments provided by the both Ansar Allah and the GPC to engage constructively in the peace process as requested by this Council and creates a new potential impediment to reach a peaceful settlement.”