Political Analysis

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says Yemen collapsing, on brink of civil war

National Yemen

The United Nations warned on Thursday that while progress has been made in Yemen talks on a political settlement, the country is on the brink of a civil war and conditions are conducive to allowing al Qaeda militants to strengthen. Al Qaeda and other Tribes  have stepped up attacks since rival Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fighters from the north seized the capital in September and started expanding across the country.

The Houthis have sidelined the central government in Yemen, which borders oil giant Saudi Arabia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his special envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, briefed the Security Council on Thursday.

“Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. We cannot stand by and watch,” Ban told the 15-nation council. “We must do everything possible to help Yemen step back from the brink and get the political process back on track.”

Benomar said daily negotiations on a political settlement had yielded “good progress”, but were still at a delicate stage.

“Today Yemen is at a crossroad – either the country would descend into civil war and disintegration or the country would find a way to put the transition back on track,” he told the council via video link from Sana’a.

“The current instability is creating conditions which are conducive to a reemergence of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula,” he said.

Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters seized an army base in southern Yemen and held soldiers prisoner on Thursday. The United States, Britain and France have closed their embassies in Sana’a, citing security concerns.

Benomar also warned that Yemen’s economy was facing imminent failure and that the local currency could collapse if a political settlement was not secured in the coming days.

Qatar’s U.N. Ambassador Sheikha Alya Bint Ahmed Bin Saif Al Thani, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, a six-nation bloc comprising energy-rich Gulf states, urged the Security Council to take action.

“It is a coup against the legitimate government in Yemen and is an undermining of the political and peaceful transition,” she said. “We should bring pressure to bear on the Houthi to stop using force and to withdraw from all governmental institutions.”

She said the Gulf Cooperation Council was ready to support Yemen in reaching a political agreement.