The warring parties in Yemen are ready to move to a formal process to end the war, according to the United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths.
Griffiths, in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat, added that the peace efforts advanced following recent developments in the south of the Yemen after southern separatists and the Yemeni government agreed to a preliminary deal during talks in Saudi Arabia.
“There are some concrete signs of hope in Yemen. For example, we have been witnessing recently a significant reduction of violence in the north; a number of detained and imprisoned have been released; desperately needed oil ships have been allowed to enter Hodeidah; access was given to humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to people in need in Duraihmi,” Griffiths said in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat.
“The Jeddah talks have concluded successfully on the south with an agreement that can be a stepping stone towards a lasting peace across the nation,” he added.
A preliminary deal between the Yemeni government and southern separatists to end a power struggle in Aden was agreed upon earlier this week. The agreement will see the separatists included in a new technocrat cabinet and both sides’ forces placed under government control.
During the interview, Griffiths also praised Saudi leadership in helping facilitate talks between the Yemeni sides.
“The leadership of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is playing a key role in facilitating solutions to key differences among the parties like the recent Jeddah talks and creating new opportunities for the parties to build confidence and find common ground between them,” Griffiths said.
The UN envoy also spoke on the recent attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities, saying that the incident was a “wake up call for the region and the world.”
“This attack showed clearly the imminent danger of dragging Yemen into a regional confrontation. This would have been a disastrous scenario. I am happy that wisdom prevailed, and this risk has been averted,” Griffiths said. “Instead of a regional war, we now have a window of opportunity for reduction of violence in Yemen and this is an extremely welcome development.”
Griffiths was recently in Saudi Arabia where he met with the Kingdom’s Deputy Minister of Defense Prince Khalid bin Salman. They discussed a recent proposal by the Houthi militia of a prisoner swap involving 2,000 detainees with the Yemeni government.
Late last month, Yemen’s Houthi militia freed 290 Yemeni detainees in a “unilateral release”.
“On prisoners, the release of some 290 detainees by Ansar Allah, was a welcome, joyous and long-awaited moment for many Yemeni families. We continue to engage with the parties in talks to make this the start of further initiatives that will facilitate the release of all detainees, in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross, at the nearest opportunity,” Griffiths said.