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UN chief calls for humanitarian pause in Yemen during Ramadan

Press Trust of India  |  Geneva 

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for an immediate humanitarian pause in Yemen for at least two weeks during Ramadan and appealed to warring factions to reach an agreement towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire, as the world body began peace talks here to resolve the deadly conflict.

Deploring that the fighting is being exploited "by some of the world's most ruthless terrorist groups," Ban called for a "renewed humanitarian pause to allow critical assistance to reach all Yemenis in need and provide a respite for Yemenis as the holy month of Ramadan begins."

"I hope this week starts the beginning of the end of the fighting," he said, speaking in a press briefing after his consultations with the Group of 16 (G-16) countries and the Government of Yemen.

When asked will Saudi Arabia's aggression stop during Ramadan, he said, "I am urging them that, particularly during this Ramadan, which is a period for peace for people, they must stop. I am urging the parties to have a humanitarian pause so that this can create some political space."

Emphasising that even though a pause is necessary it is not sufficient given the obstacles to access and the scale of destruction, the UN Chief said "I urge the parties to reach agreement on local ceasefires, with the withdrawal of armed groups from cities and a pathway towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire throughout the country."

He called the warring factions to resume a peaceful and orderly political transition and to ensure that the process includes more representations from other parties, women, youth and civil societies.

Stressing the need for immediate action, Ban said: "In Yemen's case the ticking clock is not a time piece, it is a time bomb. The fighting is giving due strength to some of the world's most ruthless terrorist groups. The region cannot sustain another open wound like Syria and Libya."

The high stakes talks in Geneva are scheduled to last two or three days in an effort to resolve the bloody conflict.

The G-16 include representatives from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Turkey, Gulf Cooperation Council, the US, the EU, China and Russia.

The Government of Yemen was represented by a delegation sent by the Riyadh-based President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Ban was joined in the separate "proximity" talks by his Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Chiekh Ahmed.

However, Ban could not meet with the other main warring group-the Houthi rebels, who were scheduled to arrive yesterday but will arrive later today.

The UN chief called the failure to meet them a "logistical issue" and said that the Houthi representatives were on their way for the talks.

Yemen has been ravaged by deadly conflict between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government.

The war has claimed 2,600 lives in Yemen while about 80 per cent of the population are in need of humanitarian aid.

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First Published: Mon, June 15 2015. 17:22 IST