UN envoy: Yemen’s Houthis threaten peace, but US offers ‘new opportunity’

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Yemen’s Houthis’ latest offensive to take Marib city, the last stronghold of the internationally-recognized government, threatens peace prospects, but the new US administration’s efforts to end the conflict present a “new opportunity” to reopen negotiations, the UN envoy to Yemen said on Thursday.

“The conflict in Yemen has taken a sharp escalatory turn with [the Houthis’] most recent offensive in Marib governorate. I have condemned this many times since early last year when this offensive operation started, and I will repeat my call now: the attack on Marib must stop. It puts millions of civilians at risk,” Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council.

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The recent push towards Marib by Iran-backed Houthi forces, who control Yemen’s most populous areas, has coincided with a fresh push by the United Nations and the United States to end the war, which the United Nations says has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

This push includes US President Joe Biden’s administration revoking a terrorist designation of the Houthis introduced by former President Donald Trump in January.

“I join others in particularly welcoming the renewed focus the United States is placing on this conflict… International support for ending the conflict is indispensable, and this offers us a new opportunity to reopen space for a negotiated solution,” Griffiths said.

Yemen’s war started in 2014 when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. The conflict has killed some 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

The offensive on Marib was accompanied by increased drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, which leads the Arab Coalition supporting the internationally recognized government in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia said a Houthi drone attack caused a fire in a civilian aircraft at an airport in Abha last week.

Griffiths warned of “worrying spikes of violence and hostilities” and stressed that he was “alarmed by continued cross-border attacks, which damage prospects for peace and regional stability.”

- With The Associated Press, Reuters

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