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UN mediator to visit Kuwait, Riyadh in search of Yemen deal

The envoy aims to reach a ‘preliminary agreement’ with Al Houthi fighters

Image Credit: AP
People gather at the site of an explosion near the old city of Sanaa.
Gulf News

Geneva: A United Nations envoy will hold talks in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the coming days on a draft peace proposal for Yemen with the aim of reaching a “preliminary agreement” with Al Houthi fighters, a UN spokesman said on Friday.

More than 2,800 people have been killed in Yemen during three months of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition, including Kuwait, that aims to restore President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi who is currently living in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

Iranian-backed Al Houthi fighters control large areas of Yemen, including the capital Sana’a.

UN-sponsored talks in Geneva on a ceasefire between Yemen’s warring parties broke up a week ago without a deal as the coalition staged further air strikes.

UN envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad, who led the Geneva talks, will travel to Kuwait on Saturday and then spend a week in Riyadh before moving on to Sana’a for a further week of consultations, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters.

“He intends to spend more time in the two capitals [Riyadh and Sana’a] to discuss the draft principles paper which was developed here in Geneva — as he said, ‘until we reach a preliminary agreement’,” said Fawzi.

“As you know, before leaving us here in Geneva, he said both sides had shown signs of constructive engagement regarding the possibility of reaching a humanitarian truce and that there was emerging common ground upon which to build an eventual ceasefire coupled with the withdrawal of combatants,” Fawzi told a news briefing in Geneva.

The United Nations has estimated that more than 21 million people, or 80 per cent of the Yemeni population, are now in need of humanitarian assistance.

The UN Security Council and UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien pressed on Thursday for more aid and commercial access to Yemen, where a near-total blockade by Saudi Arabia has slowed shipments to the Arabian Peninsula country to a trickle.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday it would provide essential medicines for treating non-communicable diseases such as heart and chronic respiratory illnesses for more than one million people in Yemen for six months.