February 8, 2023

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UN envoy, emboldened by efforts to reach ceasefire deal in Yemen, warns of Reuters’ ‘piecemeal approach’

©Reuters. FILE PHOTO: United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg speaks during an interview with Reuters in Amman, Jordan October 4, 2022. REUTERS/Jehad Shelbak

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Nations envoy to Yemen on Monday said he was encouraged by the increased efforts towards an expanded ceasefire agreement but stressed that they should aim for an inclusive process towards a sustainable political solution.

Hans Grundberg, addressing a UN Security Council briefing more than three months after an original ceasefire agreement expired, said “we are observing a potential gradual change” in the trajectory of the conflict, although the situation remained “complex and fluid”.

The eight-year conflict between a Saudi-led military coalition and the Iran-allied Houthi group, the de facto rulers of northern Yemen, has killed tens of thousands, ruined the economy and left millions starving.

A United Nations-brokered ceasefire deal agreed in April and twice renewed has delivered the longest stretch of relative calm that has largely lasted since it expired on October 2, even as the two sides escalated an economic war.

The United Nations has been pushing for an expanded and broader deal that includes a mechanism to pay public sector wages, which the Houthis had criticized for not covering members of the armed forces.

Grundberg, speaking from the Houthi-held capital Sana’a, thanked Saudi Arabia and Oman for their diplomacy and said discussions over the past month had developed “options for mutually acceptable solutions to outstanding problems.”

However, he advised against a “piecemeal approach” focused on individual needs, saying talks about short-term steps should be part of a broader approach to a sustainable resolution of a multi-pronged conflict in which multiple parties are vying for power.

Saudi Arabia, which intervened in 2015 at the head of a military coalition in Yemen after the Houthis toppled the internationally recognized government from Sana’a, is trying to extricate itself from a costly war in which it has faced Houthi missile and drone attacks.

The head of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, Mahdi al-Mashat, said Monday in a remark to Houthi-run media that talks with an Omani team had gone well and, based on past rhetoric, stressed the desire the movement towards regional stability.

The UN envoy said that while key elements of the original pact endured, continued limited military activity on the front lines and “escalating political and economic measures” could reignite the violence. The deal allowed some fuel shipments to the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah and commercial flights from Sanaa.