Yemen: UN eyes new talks by end of May

A new round of peace talks between Yemen’s warring sides should begin by the end of May, the UN mediator said Wednesday, as alarm grows over the country’s humanitarian crisis.

UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told AFP that negotiations were underway to stave off a feared military attack on the vital Red Sea port of Hodeida, in what he hoped would be a first step toward a cease-fire.

Averting an attack on Hodeida — the main entry point for desperately needed aid to Yemen — could allow “a real cessation of hostilities and to go back to the talks,” he said.

“We are at the preliminary stage, but time is also a real constraint for us, because my aim is to finish all of this before Ramadan,” he said, adding that he hoped “to enter into a new round of talks before Ramadan.”

The holy month is set to begin around May 27.

Even if Ould Cheikh Ahmed manages to get the parties to the table, any success will be hard-won: Since Yemen’s conflict escalated two years ago, all UN mediation attempts and seven declared cease-fires have failed.