(Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday appealed for an end to the war in Yemen and laid out steps the parties in the conflict must take to move forward, warning that continued fighting would result in the country’s worst famine in a decade.
“Yemen today stands on a precipice. On the humanitarian side, the situation is desperate. We must do all we can to prevent the already dire conditions from deteriorating,” Guterres told reporters at the United Nations.
He said recent political developments had created signs of hope for a settlement, and he urged the warring parties to halt the violence, especially around cities and critical infrastructure.
Guterres’ remarks come three days after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a cessation of hostilities and said U.N.-led negotiations to end the war should begin in November.
Several other countries have also joined the call for an end to the conflict.
“We must do all we can to maximize the chances for success,” Guterres said.
He called for commercial and humanitarian imports of food, fuel and other essentials to be allowed without restrictions, and urged the sides to allow roads to remain open so “life-saving goods can reach communities across the country.”
He called on Yemeni parties to engage in good faith negotiations, without preconditions, with U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths to reach a negotiated political settlement.
“The international community has a real opportunity to halt the senseless cycle of violence and to prevent an imminent catastrophe,” Guterres said. “The time to act is now.”
Despite the appeals, fighting continued on Friday, with the Saudi-led coalition saying it had attacked Sanaa International Airport and an adjoining air base being used by Houthi insurgents.
Guterres said he was appealing to both sides to halt the violence and to preserve important infrastructure.
“The appeal is to all of them (to) embark in the cessation of hostilities sooner rather than later, immediately in our opinion, in order to allow for the political process to start,” he said. “Obviously we are not yet there. That is why we are appealing for the kind of military action that is taking place from both sides to end.”
Reporting by David Alexander; writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Dan Grebler