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Yemen’s Government, Rebels to Hold Talks, U.N. Envoy Says

Friday August 3, 2018
Farnaz Fassihi

Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, briefed the U.N. Security Council in New York on Thursday. PHOTO: LI MUZI/XINHUA/ZUMA PRESS

UNITED NATIONS—A United Nations special envoy announced Thursday that the warring factions in Yemen’s long-running conflict would meet Sept. 6 in Geneva to begin discussions on a cease-fire.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, briefed the U.N. Security Council in closed session on his efforts to bring the Houthi opposition rebels and the Yemen government to the negotiating table after three years of conflict, famine and disease.

“We are all reminded constantly that delays in reaching a political solution costs lives,” Mr. Griffiths told the Council. “The math is simple.”

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Yemen’s war, like many conflicts in the Middle East, is fueled by regional rivalries and proxy factions supported by larger opposing powers—Saudi Arabia and Iran, in Yemen’s case. A Saudi-led military coalition backing government forces intervened in Yemen in 2015 to oust Houthi insurgents backed by Iran seeking control over the country’s ports and cities.

It remains unclear whether the talks in September will result in a meaningful cease-fire or set the stage for a political solution involving power sharing. Diplomats and U.N. officials said that it appeared that both Iran and Saudi Arabia were prepared for the warring factions to make concessions as prospects of a military victory by either side have dimmed.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Council that Yemen’s conflict had hit “a new sense of urgency” and condemned Iran for backing the Houthis.

“Civilians are at risk, infrastructure is at risk and we as the international community have to demand that the two parties come together and understand the seriousness of this,” Ms. Haley said.

At the Council meeting on Thursday, the U.N.’s humanitarian agency painted a dire picture of the conflict in Yemen, saying: 22 million people require assistance; 2 million are displaced and 8.4 million don’t know where their next meal will come from.

As diplomats discussed the cease-fire talks, violence continued in Yemen. At least 28 people were killed and 70 wounded along the country’s west coast in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition near a hospital situated near a popular fish market, the Associated Press reported, quoting Yemeni medical officials.

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