Yemen peace talks pushed to the end of year, as fighting in Hodeidah rages

Plans to hold Yemen peace talks have been pushed back to the end of the year, the United Nations has admitted, as fierce fighting over the strategic port city of Hodeidah has intensified.

The United States had set a deadline of 30 days for a ceasefire between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition that have been warring over the country since 2015.

Together with the UN and the UK, the US hoped the impending talks would put a final end to the ruinous war that has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis in terms of numbers and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine.  

However, Farhan Haq, a spokesman for the UN, said late Thursday that the UN’s Yemen envoy will no longer aim to convene the country’s warring parties by the end the month, but push for the end of the year.

 “There’s always different challenges to bringing the parties together,” Haq said. “What we’re trying to do is clear up any issues so that we can get a successful round of talks as soon as possible.”

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have been bombing Yemen since the spring of 2015 to reinstate recognised President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi who was ousted by the Iran-backed Houthis when they swept control of the country in late 2014.

The fighting has left 23 million people, or two-thirds of the population, relying on aid to survive and could see as many as 13 million people die from famine, according to UN figures.

The last attempt to hold peace talks collapsed in September after just three days, when the Houthi delegation did not show up.

Martin Griffiths, the UN’s envoy on Yemen, who is due to brief the Security Council next week, said in a statement last week that he hoped to bring the parties to the negotiating table within a month.

But fighting around the strategic Red Sea city has put an end to any hopes of negotiations.

Over 150 people have been killed and half a million people have fled the area since the latest offensive on Hodeidah began. The UN warned this week that the city’s main hospital al-Thawra was just metres from the front line, and starving children being treated there were at risk of being killed.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said on Friday that the city was at risk of being “obliterated” and called the lack of action from the UK and US “utterly unconscionable”. 

The NRC reported that at least 18 civilians have been killed and another 17 injured by airstrikes, artillery shelling and landmines this week alone, following several days of massive strikes and shelling on farms, factories, trucks, houses and markets across the governorates.  

“The humanitarian cost of this war is almost $3 billion this year alone but the cost to humanity completely inestimable,” the group said.

“Senseless attacks on civilians, evidence of a starving population and desperate pleas from humanitarian witnesses have done little more than elicit condolences from an international community that could have stepped on the brakes long ago. The lack of action from the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, is utterly unconscionable,” it added.

Source link