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UN Envoy ‘disappointed’ at Houthi violation of coronavirus ceasefire

March 30, 2020 at 4:48 pm

UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths in Sweden, on 13 December 2018 [Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images]

The UN Envoy to Yemen has expressed his grave disappointment over the Iran-backed Houthi militia’s violation of the recent ceasefire deal which was agreed in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Allies of the Houthis have claimed responsibility for the ballistic missiles fired at civilian targets in Saudi Arabia over the weekend.

“I am gravely dismayed and disappointed by these actions at a time when the Yemeni public’s demands for peace are unanimous and louder than ever before,” said envoy Martin Griffiths yesterday. “Yemen needs its leaders to focus every minute of their time on averting and mitigating the potentially disastrous consequences of a Covid-19 outbreak.”

On Saturday night, ballistic missiles were fired from Yemen by the Houthis towards the cities of Jizan and the capital Riyadh, all of which were intercepted and destroyed by Saudi air defence systems. The attack, intended for civilian targets, came only days after an agreement for a ceasefire was finalised between the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen and the Houthi militia in order to unite against the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and its potential threat to spread to the country.

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“In wars, the windows to build unity and find common grounds between fighting parties are rare and precarious,” said Griffiths. “There are always those who will do their best to spoil such opportunities. We cannot let them win.” He gave assurances that he is in constant touch with the parties involved. “I am urging them to be more attuned to this moment’s great potential and grave risks and discuss the way forward soonest under the auspices of my office… I hope the peace advocates on either side of the conflict will not allow this window to close without making real progress.”

The envoy also expressed praise and gratitude for the various Yemeni political leaders, tribal chiefs and civil society groups who have given their support for the ceasefire for the purpose of fighting and preventing the virus. “Our work with the parties to launch a formal ceasefire process is ongoing. We remain hopeful that all involved in the conflict will come to the table and put Yemenis and their best interest first.”

Yemen counts among one of the few remaining countries to have no recorded Coronavirus cases so far, but health organisations and experts have warned that the impoverished and embattled country could experience an explosion of cases due to the fact that millions lack access to clean water and soap in order to prevent its spread.

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