The UN Security Council during an emergency meeting over North Korea's latest missile launch, on September 4, 2017, at UN Headquarters in New York. Image Credit: AFP

United Nations: The U.N. Security Council called Thursday for an immediate end to a “significant” escalation in fighting in Yemen between Iran-backed Al Houthirebels and the Saudi-led military coalition supporting the government.

Member nations on the U.N.’s most powerful body “underlined their disappointment” at the return to violence in a statement, saying it “threatens to undermine progress made during the recent period of de-escalation in Yemen.”

The council expressed hope “that a renewed de-escalation would create space for the Yemeni parties to move towards comprehensive and inclusive U.N.-led negotiations urgently, on the security and political arrangements necessary to end the conflict and move towards a peaceful transition.”

The council statement followed a briefing Tuesday by the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

He urged a halt to the recent “alarming military escalation” in fighting “before it is too late.”

Less than two weeks ago, Griffiths had reported to the council on a major reduction in military operations and other initiatives.

He expressed hope then that this would lead to talks between the government and Iranian-backed Houthis on ending the five-year conflict in the Arab world’s poorest nation.

Al Houthi attack

However, on January 18 an Al Houthi attack on a Yemeni military camp in Marib killed more than 100 army soldiers and recruits.

Since then, the two sides have upped attacks on each other.

Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi condemned the “cowardly and terrorist” attack on the mosque, Saba reported.

“The disgraceful actions of the Huthi militia without a doubt confirm its unwillingness to (achieve) peace, because it knows nothing but death and destruction and is a cheap Iranian tool in the region,” it quoted Hadi as saying.

The president also stressed the importance of increasing military vigilance “to foil hostile and destructive plans and maintain security and stability”

A year after Yemen’s warring sides agreed to a UN-brokered truce for the key Red Sea port city of Hodeida and its surroundings, fighting in the province has subsided but the slow implementation of the deal has quashed hopes for an end to the conflict.

The landmark agreement signed in Sweden in December 2018 had been hailed as Yemen’s best chance so far to end the fighting that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in the war that has ravaged the country, triggering what the UN describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict to back the internationally-recognised government against the Iran-backed Huthis in March 2015, shortly after the rebels seized control of Sanaa.