As Yemen death toll rises, UN chief calls for immediate ceasefire

As Yemen death toll rises, UN chief calls for immediate ceasefire
By Seamus Kearney
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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon calls for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen


With the death toll rising amid fierce fighting in Yemen, the UN Secretary General has called for an immediate ceasefire.

It is the first time Ban Ki-moon has made such an appeal since Saudi-led airstrikes against Houthi rebels allied with Iran began three weeks ago.

The Houthis and soldiers loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh are battling forces loyal to Hadi.

“I am calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen by all the parties,” Ban said in a speech to the National Press Club in Washington.

“The Saudis have assured me that they understand that there must be a political process. I call on all Yemenis to participate in good faith.

“The United Nations-supported diplomatic process remains the best way out of a drawn-out war with terrifying implications for regional stability,” he said.

Ban’s special adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, recently resigned, reportedly frustrated about the lack of progress in peace talks.

He has been replaced by the Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Meanwhile, amid reports that al-Qaeda in Yemen has taken control of much of the country’s largest province, taking advantage of the chaos in Yemen, the Saudi military maintains it is only targeting Shi’ite rebels, not al-Qaeda or the ISIL militant group.

A spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, said the goal of the operation was to support what he called the “legitimacy” of exiled President Mansour Hadi.

“The goals of the operation were clear from the beginning,” said Asiri. “It was not mentioned in the goals of Operation Decisive Storm as the target being al-Qaeda or ISIL.

“Everybody knows there is an international coalition activated against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and Saudi Arabia and some of the countries are participating in this coalition.”

Hundreds of people have been killed and wounded in Yemen since March 19 and it is estimated at least 150,000 have been displaced.

The UN launched an appeal on Friday for the equivalent of 250 million euros to pay for humanitarian aid over the next three months.

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