Heartbroken UN chief seeks Yemen talks ‘resurrection’

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a joint press conference held with Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Adel al-Jubeir (unseen), in the Saudi capital Riyadh on February 12, 2017

A heartbroken United Nations chief on Sunday called for the “resurrection” of peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides to end the suffering of civilians.

Thousands of people have died in Yemen and millions are struggling to feed themselves almost two years after a Saudi-led coalition intervened to support Yemen’s government and halt an advance by militia.

“You know, I am a Catholic. And Catholics believe in resurrection,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters during a visit to the Saudi capital.

“So if negotiations are dead they can always resurrect. And I do believe that they need to for a very simple reason, the suffering of the Yemeni people.”

The world body has called repeatedly for a ceasefire to allow the delivery of relief supplies.

UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien warned last month that Yemen could face famine this year if no immediate action is taken.

Guterres, who visited Yemen in his former post as UN High Commissioner for Refugees, praised the generosity of Yemenis despite their poverty.

He said that to see them ‘suffering so much is something that really breaks my heart’.

He spoke at a joint press conference with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir after talks with King Salman, Crown Prince and Interior Minister Mohammed bin Nayef, and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the defense minister.

On the disruption of humanitarian aid in Yemen, Guterres said at the press conference: “We urge Yemen parties not to take advantage of humanitarian aid, condemn them if they do.”

And he added that the UN envoy to Yemen had his ‘full support’, which came days after Houthi militia had demanded he did not renew the diplomat’s term due to what it alleged was bias against the Iranian-aligned movement.

Jubeir said of the situation in Yemen: “We made 70 agreements with Yemen’s Houthis and ex-president Saleh. They did not implement a single one”.

And he said the kingdom ‘hoped to continue sending aid to Yemen’ adding that a ‘large amount of GCC money’ had been allocated to rebuilding the war torn country.

UN peace envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed also attended the press briefing as he continues to push a peace plan that would restore a ceasefire and lead to a political transition in the country.

Guterres arrived in Saudi Arabia from Turkey and will be in Dubai on Monday for the World Government Summit during his regional tour.

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