Washington: Yemen’s government wants to resume direct peace talks with Iranian-backed Houthi rebels to end a brutal five-year conflict, but getting the insurgents back to the negotiating table will require both military pressure and international diplomacy, the nation’s U.S. envoy said.
“We want peace and want to end this war,” Ambassador Ahmed Bin Mubarak said in an interview in Washington.
“Ending the war for us doesn’t mean just stopping the air strikes. The Houthis, when they ensure there is no military pressure on them, will never come to the table.”
The ambassador commented as Yemen’s conflict risks escalating even further after five years of fighting that’s created what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
A UN-commissioned report in April said the conflict, including side effects such as disease, will have killed about 233,000 people by the end of last month.
That’s about 0.8% of the country’s population.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, arrived in the capital Sana’a on Thursday in a bid to stop an escalation in clashes between the rebels and government forces in Nehm district, northeast of Sana’a.
Griffiths called on the parties involved to take all necessary measures to de-escalate clashes that have reportedly killed dozens.
An attack on a military base in Marib killed more than 100 government soldiers earlier this month.
The government blamed the Houthis, who denied they were behind the strikes by missiles and drones.
The conflict in Yemen has dragged on for years after an Al Houthi coup in late 2014 unseated the internationally-recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia intervened in 2015 — at the request of the legitimate government — in an effort to roll back gains being made by the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
Halting the Houthi advance would have been impossible otherwise, Mubarak said. “Without Saudi support and air strikes, the Houthis and Iran would control the entire of Yemen,” he said.
The coalition forced the Houthis out of much of the territory in the south and east but the rebels still control the capital Sana’a, territory along the Saudi border and the Red Sea city of Hodeida.