The United Nations Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths has told the UN Security Council that the number of air attacks by the Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels has dropped by nearly 80 percent in the last two weeks.
The coalition, which intervened in the war in 2015 to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government, has carried out thousands of air attacks, killing thousands of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets, drawing international criticism.
“In recent weeks, there have been entire 48-hour periods without air strikes for the first time since the conflict began,” Griffiths said on Friday. “We call this de-escalation, a reduction in the tempo of the war, and perhaps a move towards an overall ceasefire in Yemen.”
De-escalation of hostilities is a major aspect of informal talks that have been going on between Saudi Arabia and Houthi officials since September for a possible ceasefire in Yemen.
The talks began after the Houthis offered to halt cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi cities if the Riyadh-led coalition ended air strikes on Yemen.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman said that an agreement could lead to broader peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Yemen.
The UN diplomat added that skirmishes between the warring parties in the port city of Hodeidah, where the two sides agreed on a ceasefire last year, have been reduced by 80 percent after the deployment of UN monitors in recent weeks.
The Yemen war has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of famine, according to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, a non-governmental organisation.
The nearly five-year-long war has created what the UN calls the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. It says at least 12 million children are caught up in the fighting and need outside help.
Griffiths said he hopes for a resolution to the conflict in the first few months of 2020.