UN urges Yemeni leaders to reach for peace

UN urges Yemeni leaders to reach for peace

SBS World News Radio: The United Nations has urged officials in Yemen to come to an agreement over the country's future, saying there are "no winners in war".

A little over a year and a half since Yemen descended into conflict, the country remains more divided than ever.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition has thrown its support behind the internationally-recognised government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, while Shiite Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, fight to restore power to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Several attempts at peace talks have made little headway.

Just last week, a temporary pause in fighting to allow the safe passage of aid into Yemen collapsed.

In a speech to the United Nations Security Council in New York, Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has implored leaders to try again.

Speaking through an interpreter, he accuses officials of being more concerned about their personal interests, than those of their people.

"After 18 months of horrific fighting, thousands of deaths, injuries and unspeakable human suffering and total economic collapse, we all need to ask, how long will Yemenis remain hostage to personal and reckless political decisions? What are the parties waiting for to sign a political agreement? Have they not understood that there are no winners in wars? The roadmap I have proposed to the parties is widely supported by the international community because it provides a comprehensive solution."

The proposed plan would further sideline Mr Hadi, currently in exile in the Saudi capital Ridayh, and install a government of more moderate leaders.

It also wants to establish several committees to oversee the withdrawal of armed forces.

It has already been unofficially rejected by both sides, but has received support from other UN members.

More than 20 million people - around 80 per cent of Yemenis - now rely on aid from humanitarian groups, while another 10,000 have died in the bloodshed.

The number of suspected cholera cases has climbed to almost 1,500 just weeks after an outbreak was first declared by the World Health Organisation.

Muhannad Hadi, the World Food Program's Regional Director for the Middle East, says the situation is almost beyond help.

"The food security situation in Yemen is deteriorating rapidly. Actually hunger is becoming epidemic everywhere. This June, the IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) revealed that 14 million people are food insecure. Seven million of them are severely insecure. It's one thing to read those reports, but it's another thing to go and speak to a mother and a father who cannot serve their children at the end of the day with a meal. There are some governorates that 70 per cent of the population are struggling to feed themselves. Nine out of the 22 governorates in Yemen are classified as Level 3. In other words, these governorates are at emergency levels."

Thousands of airstrikes have hit towns, schools, hospitals and homes.

On Sunday, an air raid by the Saudi alliance killed 60 people near the city of Hodeidah, including some being held in a prison.

Rights groups have speculated the bombings may constitute a war crime.

Local resident Mohammed Hayel wants to see an end to the conflict.

"We call on the international community, on international organisations, to stop the war on Yemen. This war is not justified. We are struggling to find food and we have been displaced from our homes, homes have been demolished over the heads of citizens."


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