UN wants to ramp up Yemen peace effort

Ban proposed expanding the staff of the UN peace mission to Yemen and moving it to Amman from New York

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is proposing a plan to beef up the UN mediation in Yemen to overcome deep differences in peace talks, according to a letter obtained by AFP on Wednesday.

Ban outlined his proposal in a letter to the Security Council just before UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was to report to the council's 15 members on the peace talks he is leading in Kuwait.


"While both sides have committed to reaching agreements in Kuwait, there remain deep differences between the two sides which will need to be overcome in order to achieve a successful outcome," Ban wrote.

Ban proposed expanding the staff of the UN peace mission to Yemen and moving it to Amman from New York to intensify the mediation.

The bigger UN team would provide technical expertise to the Yemeni parties on a range of issues, in particular on ways to shore up a ceasefire in force since April 10 that has led to a decrease but not a halt in attacks.

"The nationwide cessation of hostilities remains extremely fragile, and requires urgent additional support from the United Nations," wrote Ban.

UN envoy optimistic

The UN envoy said on Wednesday that Yemen’s warring parties were closer to an agreement at peace talks in Kuwait as he headed to New York to brief the Security Council.

“We are moving towards a general understanding that encompasses the expectations and visions of the parties,” Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad said in a statement.

“The discussions have become more sensitive and delicate bringing us closer to a comprehensive agreement,” he said.

Ould Shaikh Ahmad is to brief the UN Security Council in a closed session later on Wednesday on the progress made in the peace talks which began on April 21 but have been clouded by repeated walkouts by the government delegation.

Face-to-face meetings resumed on Monday for the first time in nearly a week after the latest government boycott.

Ould Shaikh Ahmad said discussions on Tuesday centred on “various military and security issues including withdrawals and troop movements”.

“We are now working on overcoming various obstacles and addressing specific details of an implementation mechanism,” he said.

The apparent progress comes after Foreign Minister Abdul Malek Al Mikhlafi said on Monday that the government stood ready to make concessions for the sake of peace.

A Western diplomat familiar with the talks said they had made important progress. “We are in a stage where the parties have to make hard choices and compromises,” the diplomat said, adding that he was “very optimistic” that a deal could be reached.

“We have not seen this momentum towards peace in the past one-and-a-half years ... a road map plan has been laid down ... and it has to work,” he said.

The main sticking point in the talks has been the form of government to oversee a transition.

The government delegation insists that the legitimacy of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi must be respected. The government has also demanded that rebels implement an April 2015 Security Council resolution demanding their withdrawal from the capital and other territories they have seized since 2014.

To overcome this problem, the UN envoy has proposed a “National Salvation Government,” the Western diplomat said.

The proposed government “would be formed on a consensual and inclusive basis and in accordance with the legal references, and would only replace the current government once Sana’a and key government institutions are not under the control of non-state actors,” he said.

Analysis: Why have Yemen talks stalled so many times?

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