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UN urges Yemen's warring parties to 'seize opportunity' for peace

UN special envoy for Yemen calls on leaders to 'negotiate in good faith without preconditions' during international summit 
Fighters with forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government hold a position against Houthi rebels in Yemen's northeastern province of Marib on 6 April (AFP/File photo)

The United Nations has reiterated calls for all parties involved in the war in Yemen to come together and "seize the opportunity" for a diplomatic solution on the sidelines of a virtual meeting of world powers.

During a news conference on Monday, Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, said that peace efforts in Yemen had reached a "critical moment" after six years of fighting.

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Griffiths' comments come as high-ranking officials from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany, Sweden, Kuwait, and the EU sat down for talks aimed at ending the drawn-out conflict.

"This is a moment for responsible leadership," he said, urging "the parties to seize the opportunity that exists now and negotiate in good faith without preconditions".

Griffiths, meeting in Berlin with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking, said the dire humanitarian situation required an immediate response.

The US State Department, in a statement on Monday, said Lenderking, Griffiths and other officials were set to "discuss steps the international community can take to mitigate the suffering of the Yemeni people, including additional humanitarian assistance and follow-through on past pledges". 

The US department also stressed the "importance of reaching a lasting solution to the war in Yemen, including a resumption of political talks" and underscored the need to cement "an immediate end to the offensive in Marib", an oil-rich territory that is the internationally recognised government's last significant pocket in the north. 

'A generation has been lost'

For his part, Griffiths highlighted the "increasing and appalling" lack of access to food and medicine that Yemenis have endured during the conflict. 

Griffiths was particularly concerned over the fate of children in Yemen, who he said have faced over six years "of being deprived of schooling, and being deprived of their future".

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"A generation has been lost," he said.

Griffiths said a UN plan for a negotiated political settlement would first address "critical humanitarian needs and build confidence between the parties".

"We hope together that an agreement on all those humanitarian measures will create a conducive environment for the parties to move swiftly to inclusive peace talks under the auspices of the UN to sustainably and comprehensively end the conflict," he said.

The UN was committed to a "fair future" for the country's people which "is deliverable, which is achievable, and which is long overdue", Griffiths said.

The current conflict erupted in 2014 when a Saudi-led military intervention pushed Yemen into a protracted war of attrition, and since then Iran-backed rebels have seized large swathes of the country.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine, in what the United Nations has described as the world's "worst humanitarian crisis".

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