UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. envoy for Yemen said Wednesday that deep divisions between the warring parties in Yemen are preventing him from calling for a new round of peace talks.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the U.N. Security Council that the parties are divided over whether a new round of talks should be convened without a cessation of hostilities. He said he hasn't received sufficient assurances that if he called for a cessation of hostilities it would be respected.
The Arab world's poorest country has been plagued by fighting between its internationally recognized government, backed by a Saudi-led, U.S.-supported coalition, and Shiite Houthi rebels allied with former President Ali Abdulla Saleh.
The latest round of peace talks between Yemen's warring parties broke down on Dec. 20 amid violations of a cease-fire. Talks had been expected to resume the week of Jan. 11 but were postponed following renewed fighting and airstrikes.
"We cannot delay these talks beyond, in my view, the month of March," Cheikh Ahmed told reporters later. "A political solution is becoming more than ever needed today and we need to precipitate these talks as soon as possible."
In response to his appeal to the Security Council to act to implement a cessation of hostilities, he said he received "overwhelming support" from council members who will be working with his team to ensure that there is not only a cease-fire but even more importantly a commitment to a cease-fire.
The U.N. envoy painted a grim picture of a country gripped by deteriorating security, a humanitarian crisis, and an upsurge in attacks by "terrorist groups."
"Many parts of Yemen are again witnessing airstrikes and extensive ground fighting," Cheikh Ahmed said. "There has also been a significant increase in the number of missiles fired indiscriminately into Saudi Arabia."
He said the absence of a national government in many parts of Yemen has facilitated the expansion of extremist groups.
"Al Qaida and the Islamic State are present in many parts of Yemeni territory," Cheikh Ahmed said. "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."
"Despite all this," he told reporters, "I remain optimistic, and I am sure that we will have some good talks in the near future — and the next one I'm hoping will be the right one."
The U.N. humanitarian chief warned Tuesday that a catastrophe is unfolding in Yemen.
Stephen O'Brien cited more than 35,000 casualties since March 2015 including over 6,000 deaths; at least 7.6 million people lacking access to food; more than 3.4 million children out of school; and nearly 600 health facilities and over 1,170 schools unfit for use because of the conflict.