Yemen: 2018 ‘terrifying’ but ‘year for hope’ says UN Envoy

It has been a ‘terrifying’ year for Yemenis but ultimately one of hope, as December talks in Sweden yielded a ceasefire around a key port city with the promise of further substantive consultations between the warring parties next month, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths told UN News in an exclusive interview.

Despite the ‘remarkable’ recent progress, Yemen continues to suffer from a humanitarian crisis described by the UN as the worst in the world, together with fighting between Government and Houthi movement opposition forces across the country, said Mr Griffiths, adding that “it’s still going to be a hard slog to make it work according to plan”.

The United Nations, said the Special Envoy, is the only organisation capable of brokering an agreement such as the Hudaydah ceasefire, and putting a team on the ground to monitor the truce within a week of the talks in Sweden.

Mr Griffiths admitted to many doubts and fears in the lead up to the talks, but also a sense of achievement at simply getting representatives of the two sides together for talks in the same room, after years of a brutal war, for the first time in over two years.

He was keen to stress the importance of using the meetings to move forward on the management of Hudaydah following the fragile ceasefire agreement, a key port which is the main hub for all humanitarian aid and commercial goods entering the war-torn nation. On the humanitarian front, he said that detailed planning is already underway, with teams from the office of Lise Grande, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, and the World Food Programme (WFP) present as part on the UN mediating team in Sweden. WFP is expected to take the lead role in managing the port.

Another breakthrough was the agreement over a prisoner exchange, involving 4,000 in detention (2,000 from each side), who will now return home, described as an incredible moment for their families, and a “remarkable sign of hope for the people of Yemen”. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was present in Sweden in a support role, has agreed to manage the prisoner airlift from one part of the country to another.

The Insides Speak.