Surge in violence is derailing the Yemen peace process, warns UN envoy

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The outbreak of heavy fighting in Yemen’s north over the past two weeks threatens to unravel months of work to build a fragile peace process to end the five-year conflict, UN envoy Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday.

Speaking to The National, Mr Griffiths said that months of careful mediation to build confidence between the government and the Houthi rebels could be “derailed” due to a fresh offensive in the north that has shattered months of relative calm in the conflict.

“It only takes a few days of violence to undermine all this hard-earned progress and derail the entire peace process,” Mr Griffiths warned as he called for de-escalation.

The Iran-backed Houthis have launched a major push to recapture the country’s northern Al Jawf province and Marib Governorate east of the rebel-held capital and Nehm, a half-hour drive from Sanaa.

United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council in early January that dialogue was “beginning to produce results.” AP, File

After a blitzkrieg offensive that pushed pro-government forces back around the two provinces, a counter-offensive saw loyalists regain several strategic areas. A wave of over 40 airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition to support the government have destroyed dozens of rebel tanks and armoured vehicles.

Residents trapped by the fighting describe to The National intense bombardments that have prevented them fleeing.

In the relatively more secure city of Taiz, a Houthi mortar on Monday hit a market, killing one person and wounding 10 others. At least 13 fighters from both sides were killed in fighting in the central province of Bayda on Sunday.

“It is not too late to change course and diffuse the situation now,” Mr Griffiths said. “I urge all parties to renew their commitment to a peaceful resolution to the conflict because the Yemeni people deserve better than a life of perpetual war.”

The UN envoy to Yemen has been shuttling between Riyadh, where President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and members of the internationally recognised government of Yemen are based, and Sanaa to meet the Houthis.

The UN Security Council is set to discuss the surge in violence in Yemen at an emergency meeting called by the UK on Tuesday. British envoy Karen Pierce said Mr Griffiths would address the council in a closed-door briefing.

Near the start of the recent fighting on January 19, two missiles hit a Yemeni-government training base in Marib killing over 130 soldiers. The government blamed the Houthis for the attack although the group hasn’t claimed responsibility.

The fighting has shattered months of relative calm in the conflict that the UN says has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

At the start of January, Mr Griffiths told the UN Security Council that the country experienced one of the quietest weeks since the war began in 2015.

“With each positive step, we are brought closer to formally launching political consultations between the government of Yemen and the Houthis,” Mr Griffiths said at the time.

His comments came just two days before the attack on Marib.

Updated: January 28, 2020 11:30 AM

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