The U.N.’s special envoy for Yemen is expected to brief U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday on his efforts to find a way to end Yemen’s brutal civil war. The report is likely to be downbeat.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told reporters that last week’s peace talks here had met with steadfast resistance from all sides on ending the fighting. There was not even agreement on a “humanitarian pause,” intended to help aid agencies reach millions of civilians in dire straits because of the fighting.
“There was no agreement, let’s be clear about that. I will not beat around the bush. There was no kind of agreement reached. Both parties had divergent views,” Cheikh Ahmed said.
Fierce ground fighting and airstrikes by a coalition led by Saudi Arbia continued throughout the talks, with U.N. agencies reporting large numbers of new casualties and a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation for the war-ravaged population.
After he briefs Ban, Cheikh Ahmed is expected to resume his diplomatic shuttle in search of a breakthrough, with meetings in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with the government of exiled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, and in Sanaa with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and representatives of former Yemeni President Ali Adbullah Saleh, who’s sided with the Houthis.
Diplomats here said Cheikh Ahmed may have rushed the talks, which, in addition to the main antagonists, included envoys from the so-called “Group of 16,” made up of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, as well as regional powers including Turkey.
The talks were bogged down, the diplomats said, by wrangling over procedural issues, such as the size of the rebel delegation. The rebels brought 22 delegates, but each side was supposed to have been limited to 10 each.
Mediation efforts by the special envoy and some major powers on the sidelines failed to resolve the issue.
Moreover, the participation in the Yemeni government delegation of the head of the al Rashad party , which the United States has sanctioned for connections to terrorism, further confused the talks. John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, described the United States as “concerned” the the government of Yemen “would form a delegation for these kinds of talks and include a known financier of international terrorism.”
“The situation was not ripe from the beginning,” was the analysis of one of the ambassadors to the talks’ failure. He spoke on the condition that he remain unnamed.
The talks also were hurt by differences between Western powers, which pushed hard to secure another humanitarian pause, and the exiled Yemeni government and its regional allies.
The Houthi rebels, which have advanced across the country, were amenable to a cease-fire, while the government of the exiled president wanted a cease-fire tied to a Houthi withdrawal.
During the talks, Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said the U.N. was seeking $1.6 billion for humanitarian aid to the war torn nation.
“Over a million people have had to flee their homes due to conflict. Nearly 2,800 people have been killed – half of whom are civilians – and almost 12,000 injured,” he said.