GENEVA : U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pressed Monday for a halt to fighting in Yemen at the beginning of Ramadan, which starts later this week, as the world body launched talks aimed at brokering peace.
Ban, who met in Geneva with some of the delegations involved in the talks, said he had “emphasized the importance of having another humanitarian pause, at least two weeks.”
“I’m urging them that, particularly during this Ramadan — which is a period for peace for people, and praying for peace — they must stop,” he told reporters.
Such a pause won’t be enough in itself to get aid to all needy Yemenis “given the obstacles to access and the scale of destruction,” Ban said. He called for the warring factions to go further and agree on local cease-fires, withdrawing armed groups from cities.
A previous five-day pause was violated repeatedly, and aid groups said it was hardly sufficient to reach millions in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Yemen’s conflict pits exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi against the Shiite rebels known as Houthis — who seized the capital, Sanaa, last year — and military units loyal to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. A Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against the Houthis and their allies on March 26, shortly after Hadi fled a rebel advance on the south.
The talks in Geneva are expected to last two or three days. The U.N. has said that they will start off as proximity talks — in which mediators meet separately with the various factions — with the hope of eventually getting everyone to sit around the same table.
The final delegations are expected to arrive in Geneva late Monday afternoon or early evening, Ban said.
The Houthi delegation left Sanaa on Sunday, a day after a plane meant to carry the rebels and their allies to the talks left Yemen without the delegates on board.
“The parties have a responsibility to end the fighting and begin a real process of peace and reconciliation,” Ban said, arguing that “the region simply cannot sustain another open wound like Syria and Libya.”