The new U.N. special envoy for Yemen said Friday that the Arab world’s poorest nation is “stuck in an indefinite state of war” and resuming negotiations to end the more than six-year conflict won’t be easy.
Hans Grundberg, a Swedish diplomat who took up the post four days ago after serving as the European Union’s ambassador to Yemen since 2019, told the U.N. Security Council that “there are no quick wins” in Yemen’s civil war.
To chart the best way forward, he said, he plans to review what has worked and what hasn’t, and “listen to as many Yemeni men and women as possible.”
“The conflict parties have not discussed a comprehensive settlement since 2016,” Grundberg said. “It is therefore long overdue for the conflict parties to engage in peaceful dialogue with one another under U.N. facilitation on the terms of an overarching settlement, in good faith and without preconditions.”
Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try restore Hadi to power, and threw its support behind his internationally backed government. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.
The U.N.’s approach to ending the conflict must include “meaningful participation of women,” Grundberg said.
Surveying the complex situation in Yemen, he said that since early 2020 the focus has been on the Houthi offensive in the government-held city of Marib which has cost the lives of thousands of young people and left thousands of displaced civilians living in constant fear of violence and having to move again. In the key port city of Hodeida, there has been “a noticeable decline in cease-fire violations,” but hostilities in southern districts “are of particular concern,” he said.
In southern Yemen, Grundberg said, there have been regular flare-ups of violence and basic services and the economy have deteriorated. He stressed that southern grievances and demands must “play a part”in determining the path forward.
Ghada Eltahir Mudawi, a deputy director in the U.N. humanitarian office, told the council that “the threat of famine is not over in Yemen” but there has been a surge in donor funding over the past few months with the U.N. receiving more than $1.9 billion — 50% of its total requirement.
As a result, she said, the U.N. has scaled up assistance, reaching 12.8 million people in June — 3.3 million more than in May — and famine has been prevented in the first eight months of the year.
Mudawi said a high-level side event on Yemen will take place on Sept. 22 at the U.N. General Assembly’s annual gathering of world leaders co-hosted by the European Union, Sweden and Switzerland.