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UN’s Ban wants to ramp up Yemen peace effort


UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon / AFP PHOTO / OZAN KOSE

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans 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 delivered a 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.

He 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, especially shoring 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,” Ban wrote.

An upsurge in violence could “undermine the Kuwait talks and derail the progress towards greater stability and security,” he added.

– ‘Moving in the right direction’ –
Egyptian Ambassador Amr Aboulatta, who chairs the council this month, told reporters that council members agreed on the need to bolster the mediation effort.

“Things are moving in the right direction,” he said following a closed meeting on Yemen.

“There was an agreement to help the office and Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.”

Speaking to the council by video-conference from Kuwait, Ould Cheikh Ahmed said progress was slow but steady in the talks, according to a diplomat at the closed session.

Ramadan beginning on June 6 is not a deadline for a breakthrough and the parties must stay at the talks as long as it takes, the envoy said.

The latest round of peace talks began in Kuwait on April 21 but has been clouded by repeated walkouts by the government delegation.

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

The UN envoy said in a statement on Wednesday that the sides were moving “toward a general understanding that encompasses the expectations and visions of the parties.”

The main sticking point in the talks has been reaching agreement on a transitional government.

Huthi Shiite rebels and their allies have demanded a unity government.

But the government delegation insists that President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s legitimacy must be respected.

A western diplomat told AFP in Kuwait that the UN envoy had proposed a “national salvation government” that would be “consensual and inclusive.”

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