The conflict in Yemen has taken a “sharp turn and escalation” and the country is approaching the worst famine the world has seen in decades, UN officials warned, as the United States under Joe Biden has a renewed interest in finding a diplomatic solution to the problem. war.
In one of his most pessimistic monthly assessments, UN special envoy Martin Griffiths told the security council that attacks by Houthi rebels in Marib province threatened to displace tens of thousands of civilians, many of whom they had fled to the region to escape fighting in other parts of Yemen.
One million people are believed to have fled to the relative safety of the province since 2015, raising the city’s population from the previous 400,000.
Marib is controlled by the Saudi-backed Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and is strategically important due to its oil and gas reserves. Until now it had been considered a relative preserve of stability and prosperity. His capture would be a significant victory for the Houthis, and as long as the fate of the city of Marib is at stake, the Houthis are unlikely to return to talks.
Griffiths said that the military situation was the most tense in the country since he became envoy and that “the center of gravity is now in the battle for Marib who was already stealing the lives of young people.”
Four missiles have struck the city of Marib in the last 10 days, killing three civilians. “The attack on Marib must stop now,” Griffiths said. “It is endangering millions of people with the fighting that threatens to reach the camps for internally displaced persons. The search for territorial gain by force threatens the entire peace process ”.
He also called on the Yemeni government to allow fuel ships into Hodeidah ports to prevent fuel shortages from starting to exacerbate the threat of famine in the north.
He said that the renewed US interest in Yemen opened a space for a negotiated solution led by Yemen and supervised by the UN, and that the solution must be marked by responsible government and economic justice, ending with national elections. That required a national ceasefire, humanitarian measures that would allow the free flow of oil, the payment of public administration salaries and the opening of the Sana’a airport to international traffic.
But Griffiths said he had been discussing these issues for a year, and what was needed was simply the political will to “end the relentless cycle of violence.” “No one can force the warring parties to peace unless they choose dialogue and put their weapons aside. The responsibility to end the war is the responsibility of the parties and it is the responsibility that I hope they will assume now.
Griffiths did not mention his recent visit to Tehran, suggesting that his hopes of persuading Iran to use its influence on the Houthis did not bear fruit. The only light appears to be the resumption of prisoner swap negotiations in January.
Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian coordinator, said: “We are running out of time. Malnutrition rates are at record levels and 400,000 children are severely malnourished and, as a result, are in their final weeks and months. Across Yemen, 16 million people are starving, including 5 million who are one step away from famine. “
He said unacceptable humanitarian access problems continue with Houthi forces regularly delaying aid convoys and routinely harassing aid personnel.
The size of Yemen’s economy had been cut in half and the value of the Yemeni riyal against the dollar had fallen to a quarter of its value five years ago. A months-long dispute over the distribution of oil revenues between the Houthis and the Hadi government had meant that 13 oil tankers were still awaiting permission to dock outside the port of Hodeidah, with each ship waiting on average every 75 days before they were due. allowed them to enter the port.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism