Ebola chief named as UN Yemen envoy replacement

Diplomatic sources tell Al Jazeera that Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania will replace the Moroccan envoy.

The United Nations has selected a replacement UN envoy for Yemen following the resignation of Jamal Benomar, Al Jazeera understands.

Diplomatic sources say Mauritania’s Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been designated to replace Benomar, who resigned after four years of efforts at a peaceful political transition fell apart amid the Houthi uprising and Saudi-led air strikes.

Ahmed is the current head of the UN’s Ebola emergency response mission in West Africa. His appointment still has to be endorsed by the UN Security Council.  

A UN statement earlier on Thursday had announced Benomar’s resignation, saying he had “expressed an interest in moving on to another assignment”. It said his successor would be named “in due course”.

Benomar, who is from Morocco, also posted the statement on social media, including his Facebook page

In the statement, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he “appreciates the tireless efforts Mr Benomar has made over the years to promote consensus and trust on a peaceful way forward in Yemen”.

“Unfortunately, this process was interrupted with the dramatic escalation of violence.”

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Benomar’s departure created a diplomatic vacuum in Yemen, where he had been the key international figure working to bring the feuding parties together, even after diplomats fled embassies and the UN staff pulled out.

Benomar, who previously served as an envoy in Iraq and Afghanistan, had come under criticism from some in the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, as his recent efforts to broker peace showed little success.

Houthi fighters swept into the capital in September and have since tried to expand their control across Yemen, which is also battling al-Qaeda’s local branch, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

The Houthis put President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi under house arrest in February, demanding he carry out political reforms. He has since fled to Saudi Arabia. 

The UN said the conflict has killed more than 700 people, injured 2,760 and displaced more than 121,000 people since a Saudi-led coalition air strike campaign began on March 26.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies