By Robin Gomes
The United Nations is inviting Yemen’s warring parties in Geneva on September 6 for a round of talks to end the 3-year old conflict.
A chance for peace
It is time to “begin the difficult and uncertain journey away from war” and that there is now a chance “to weigh the opportunities for peace,” Martin Griffiths, United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen told the Security Council on Thursday.
Griffiths said, “It is time long past for us, together, to call for an early resumption of the political process, two years since the last round in Kuwait.” He was referring to the UN-supported peace talks that where first held three years ago in Switzerland before shifting to Kuwait in April 2016.
The Yemen conflict was sparked by the Shia-led Houthi rebels taking control of Yemen's capital Sanaa in 2014, which sent the internationally recognized government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi fleeing to exile. A Saudi-led Sunni coalition, which has the backing of the United States, has been at war with the Iran-backed Houthis since 2015 to restore the government of Hadi.
Three years on, the fighting is still raging, and the ensuing humanitarian crisis has only deepened in a country that was already one of the region’s poorest.
Negotiation, not military solution
Griffiths has been leading efforts to prevent a full-scale coalition assault on the strategic port city of Hodeidah on the Red Sea, which is responsible for more than 70 percent of imports to Yemen and is a vital lifeline for a country already teetering on the brink of famine.
He called on Council members to “urge the parties to resolve this conflict through negotiation rather than through military means”, explaining that he will invite the warring parties to Geneva on 6 September for a round of talks to support de-escalation in Hodeidah "and to keep the Red Sea out of the conflict."
John Ging Director of the Coordination and Response Division of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), also addressed the Security Council on the dire situation in Yemen.
He said more than 22 million people, or 75 per cent of the population, require humanitarian assistance and protection. Three years of conflict have left 2 million people displaced from their homes; 8.4 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from; and, the worst cholera outbreak in the world occurred in Yemen last year, with 1.1 million cases.
Ging said the conflict in Hodeida "has escalated significantly," saying violence has forced more than 340,000 people from their homes across Hodeida governorate since June 1.
“The toll of this conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure is devastating. Incidents in which civilians are killed or injured continue to be reported with alarming regularity”, he said, calling all parties to “respect international humanitarian law, including the obligation to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to take all feasible precautions to avoid and minimize incidental harm”.
“The humanitarian situation is indeed shocking, both in scale and severity,” Ging said, stressing, “these figures call for urgent action.”
“The Yemeni people have suffered for too long and the have suffered too much. An end to this conflict is long overdue,” he added.