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Regional tensions slowing peace efforts in Yemen: UN special envoy

February 14, 2024 at 8:45 pm

Hans Grundberg, the United Nations’ special envoy for Yemen, meets with local officials in the country’s third city of Taez on 12 February, 2024 [AHMAD AL-BASHA/AFP via Getty Images]

Regional tensions affect peace efforts in Yemen, UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg warned Wednesday, Anadolu news agency reported.

“Rising regional tensions linked to the war in Gaza, and in particular the military escalation in the Red Sea, are slowing down the pace of peace efforts in Yemen,” Grundberg said at a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East.

What happens regionally affects Yemen, and what happens in Yemen can affect the region, he said.

Turning to the recent US-UK airstrikes against Houthi targets in Yemen, Grundberg said the developments are “concerning.”

He also drew the Council’s attention to “worrying developments” inside Yemen, such as reports of clashes, mobilizations and casualties.

The envoy listed three things to create “an off-ramp to this dangerous escalatory cycle.”

“First, we need to see regional de-escalation. The UN is engaging with relevant stakeholders to encourage the prioritization of diplomatic channels to this end.

“Second, the Yemeni parties must stop public provocations and refrain from military opportunism inside Yemen at this delicate juncture,” said Grundberg.

Thirdly, he said because Yemen is not a “footnote to a wider regional story,” the parties need to refocus on safeguarding the progress that has been made toward reaching an agreement.

“Everyone in this Council wields influence. What you say, and what you do, matters. And Yemen deserves your full attention,” he said.

In 2024, more than 18 million people will need humanitarian assistance in Yemen

Edem Wosornu, director of the Operations and Advocacy Division at UNOCHA, told the Council that people in Yemen are following the spread of the regional crisis with concern.

Stressing that the situation in Yemen could easily deteriorate without “urgent and sufficient” funding, Wosornu said in 2024, more than 18 million people, over half the population, will need humanitarian assistance and protection services in Yemen.

“We anticipate that 17.6 million people will be severely food insecure. Nearly half of all children under 5 face moderate to severe stunting,” she said.

Wosornu urged the Council to offer its full support to the humanitarian community in addressing existing needs and helping Yemen to transition toward sustainable development and self-sufficiency.

“2024 can still be the year Yemen turns the page on the tragedy and suffering stemming from years of conflict and economic deterioration,” she said.

Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014 when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.

Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while 14 million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.

READ: US, UK conduct new airstrikes targeting Yemen’s Houthis