UN envoy eyes new Yemen peace talks before Ramadan

UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed at the opening of a high-level conference to raise funds for war-ravaged Yemen on April 25, 2017 at the Unites Nations Office in Geneva.

A new round of peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides should begin by the end of May, the UN mediator said Wednesday, as alarm grows over the country’s humanitarian crisis.

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told AFP that negotiations were underway.

“We are at the preliminary stage, but time is also a real constraint for us, because my aim is to finish all of this before Ramadan,” he said, adding that he hoped “to enter into a new round of talks before Ramadan.”

The Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan is set to begin around May 27 this year.

Even if Ould Cheikh Ahmed manages to get the parties to the table, any success will be hard-won: since Yemen’s conflict escalated two years ago, all UN mediation attempts and seven declared ceasefires have failed.

Weapons smuggling

Hudaydah is currently controlled by the Houthis, and the UN envoy said he was hearing concerns from the coalition that the port was being used to smuggle in weapons.

“We are trying to explore various options by which we can reinforce inspection mechanisms maybe or see how we can minimize the risk of any additional smuggling,” he said.

The UN mediator said the Houthis had voiced interest in his proposals and that he aimed to invite them to a meeting in Oman next month to discuss different options.


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