UN Yemen envoy: 'Good progress' on ceasefire despite continued fighting

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United Nations (United States) (AFP)

The UN special envoy for Yemen said Thursday that "very good progress" was being made towards a ceasefire in the country, although military activities regrettably "continue on a number of fronts" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Envoy Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council via videoconference that work was underway in "reaching consensus" over ceasefire and political dialogue proposals submitted Friday.

"We are redoubling our efforts to bridge the outstanding differences between the parties," he said.

But Griffiths added that he feared fighting would continue on the ground until agreement was reached on the proposals.

The city of Marib, east of the capital of Sanaa, he said "remains the center of gravity of this war."

Meanwhile a ceasefire implemented in early 2019 for the western Hodeida region is violated "on a daily basis," he added.

Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed over the past five years in the war between a Saudi-led military coalition and the Iran-backed Huthi rebels, who control large parts of Yemen including Sanaa.

Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, warned that "more than one million people could suddenly be on the move," if conflict expands in Marib.

"In the first quarter of this year, civilian casualties have risen every month, with more than 500 people killed or injured," he said. "One in every three civilian casualties has been a child."

Both Griffiths and Lowcock told the Security Council that "Yemen cannot face two fronts at the same time: a war and a pandemic."

The UN helps "more than 13 million people across the country" every month, including nearly 12 million with food assistance, according to Lowcock.

UN agencies "estimate they need more than $900 million to carry them through July," he told the Security Council.

Of the UN's 41 major programs, 31 would start closing in the coming weeks if additional funds aren't secured, he said.