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UN envoy for Yemen moves to Jordan

AFP , Tuesday 31 Mar 2015
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The United Nations has relocated its peace envoy for Yemen to Jordan and pulled its last 13 foreign employees from the conflict-torn country, a spokesman said Tuesday.

Envoy Jamal Benomar left Yemen at the weekend along with some 200 UN staff as a Saudi-led coalition launched air strikes to block an advance against Shiite rebels known as the Houthis.

UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that Benomar is working on reviving peace talks despite the air campaign and downplayed reports that the envoy had lost support from Gulf governments.

"It's difficult in a time of war to get negotiations going, but it's precisely crucial to do so at that very time," Haq said.

"We need to get the fighting stopped and we need to get everything back on track."

Benomar, the Moroccan diplomat appointed as the envoy for Yemen in 2012, continues to have the "full support" of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said Haq.

The spokesman added that with the departure of the last remaining 13 employees, the United Nations would rely on "several hundred" local staff to maintain a presence in Yemen.

The international staff will go back to Yemen "as soon as circumstances permit," he said.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned earlier that Yemen "seems to be on the verge of total collapse" as the Saudi-led campaign escalated.

The United Nations is backing embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi as Yemen's legitimate leader in the face of the Houthi uprising that threatens to plunge the poor Arab state deeper into chaos.

Hadi has fled to Saudi Arabia which has accused Iran of backing the Huthis in their power grab in a bid to gain influence in the region.

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