The UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told the UN Security Council [official website] on Friday that Yemen is at a “critical crossroads” as peace talks between the government and the Houthis are scheduled to begin this Monday. Ould Cheikh Ahmed says he hopes the talks will lead to an agreement [UN News Centre report] and an end to violence in the country. Last week, both parties agreed to a cessation of hostilities and Ould Cheikh Ahmed hopes this will create a good environment to agree to end the conflict and resume inclusive political dialogue. The UN Envoy urged all parties to support the work of humanitarian agencies, which he says will continue to provide assistance in the area. He also commended the government of Saudi Arabia for their role in encouraging the parties to stop hostilities and in agreeing to settle border disputes. Over 6,400 people have died so far in the conflict and over 2.8 million people have been displaced.
The rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen has sparked significant international concern. Last month UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein criticized [JURIST report] the Saudi Arabian coalition forces in Yemen for the more than 3,000 civilian casualties resulting from the conflict in just the past year. Also in March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned [JURIST report] that the use of cluster bombs by the Saudi-led coalition against neighborhoods in Yemen may amount to a war crime. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said [JURIST report] that the civilian death toll in Yemen had reached nearly 2,800. In January the UN World Food Programme appealed to all the parties involved in the Yemen conflict to allow the safe passage of food [JURIST report] to the city of Taiz. In October Amnesty International called for an [JURIST report] independent investigation into possible war crimes surrounding the destruction of a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders in Yemen.