United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened peace talks on Yemen with a chilling warning: “When the parties bicker, Yemen burns.”
Ban called on Yemen’s opposing factions to observe a humanitarian ceasefire for a minimum of two weeks to mark the start of the holy month of Ramadan and to allow much-needed supplies into the country.
“Today, Yemen’s very existence hangs in the balance,” he added, demanding an end to local fighting and the withdrawal of armed groups from Yemeni cities.
“We have a special obligation to act. Even before the terrible fighting, Yemen was one of the world’s poorest countries in one of the world’s richest neighbourhoods,” Ban said at the Geneva talks.
He went on to say more than 2,600 people, half of whom were civilians, have been killed in the fighting in the country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this figure is under-estimated.
The Secretary General’s speech came amid reports pro-government, Saudi-led air strikes are continuing to bombard the Yemeni capital Sana’a.
Delegates from both sides of the conflict are expected at the talks, although reports suggest Houthi-rebel representatives had been delayed in Djibouti and had not arrived in Geneva when proceedings began.