October 31, 2016 / 6:35 PM / 3 years ago

Yemenis held hostage to 'personal, reckless' decisions -U.N. envoy

UNITED NATIONS, Oct 31 (Reuters) - The people of Yemen are being held hostage to “personal and reckless political decisions,” the United Nations special envoy said on Monday as he appealed for the U.N. Security Council to back a peace plan that both parties have unofficially rejected.

U.N. mediator Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the council that the dismissal of the plan “demonstrates that the political elite in Yemen remains unable to overcome their differences and prioritize national, public interest over personal interests.”

A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, since March 2015 to try to restore to power internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The U.N. peace plan would sideline Hadi, who is currently exiled in Riyadh, and set up a government of less divisive figures.

“It is now the responsibility of the delegations to prioritize peace, rather than partisan agendas,” said Ould Cheikh Ahmed, adding that he would return to begin consultations with both parties despite their “unofficial” rejections.

British U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the 15-member council he would draft a U.N. resolution calling on the parties to return to negotiations on the basis of the U.N. peace plan and implement an immediate truce.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, described the U.N. plan as “credible and balanced.”

“The road map is a basis for a negotiation, it is not a take it or leave it proposition,” she told the council. “Now is not the time for any of the parties to hedge, stall or add new conditions. The parties should engage with the special envoy.”

The conflict in Yemen has killed at least 10,000 people and unleashed one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with about 21 million people, or 80 percent of the country’s population, in need of humanitarian assistance.

“Yemen is one step away from famine,” U.N. aid chief Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council.

He said the parties and those with influence over them - Saudi Arabia, regional countries, the United States, Britain and Iran - “can arrest this war and this suffering.”

The Saudi-led military coalition, supported by the United States and Britain, has been criticized for killing civilians.

“The United States will continue to underscore to the coalition the need to take all feasible measures to reduce civilian casualties and target precisely, including verifying targets against a no-strike list,” Power said. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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