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UN envoy says return to war in Yemen is ‘real’

CAIRO – The UN envoy for Yemen has warned that the risk of a return to fighting “is real”, urging the warring parties to accept a longer extension of the current ceasefire due to expire next month.

Hans Grundberg’s harsh warning Tuesday night came after meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh with Rashad al-Alimi, head of the internationally recognized presidential council, and in the Omani capital Muscat with Mohammed Abdul -Salam, the main negotiator of the Houthi rebels. . He also met with Saudi and Omani officials to push for an extension of the ceasefire.

Grundberg said in a statement that he discussed a UN proposal to renew the truce for longer “to give Yemenis a chance to make progress on a broader basket of priorities.”

“We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real and I urge the parties to choose an alternative that puts the needs of the Yemeni people first,” he said.

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Efforts to renew the ceasefire have come as the two sides staged military parades in territories under their control. The internationally recognized government held parades on the anniversary of the 1962 uprising against the Imamate government in northern Yemen.

The most notable parade was by the Houthis last week in the capital of Sanaa, where they displayed a variety of weapons, including missiles and drones, resembling those produced by Iran, their main sponsor in the war. The Houthis’ parades were a celebration of their seizure of the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014, which triggered the ongoing civil war.

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The UN envoy did not offer details about his proposal.

Nabil Jamel, a government negotiator, said the UN proposal includes ways to pay civil servants in Houthi-held territories and reopen roads in blockaded cities, including Taiz. He did not elaborate.

The reopening of roads in Taiz and other provinces is part of the UN-brokered truce, which took effect in early April and was extended twice, the second time until October 2. Both parties denounced violations of the ceasefire. The truce established a partial reopening of the Sanaa airport to commercial flights and allowed fuel tankers to reach the port of Hodeida.

Abdul-Salam, the Houthi official in Oman, called for the permanent opening of the Sanaa airport and the Red Sea ports in Hodeida, along with the payment of salaries and pensions, before engaging in political talks.

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“There is no seriousness or credibility to any talk of peace in Yemen prior to the implementation of these urgent humanitarian issues,” he said on Twitter.

The truce has been the longest lull in fighting in Yemen’s war, now in its eighth year. It has brought relief to Yemenis who have suffered through a decade of political turmoil and conflict.

Yemen’s brutal civil war began in 2014, when the Houthis seized Sanaa and much of northern Yemen and forced the government into exile. A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in early 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

The conflict has created one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and, over the years, has escalated into a regional proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. More than 150,000 people have been killed, including more than 14,500 civilians.

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