UN: Yemen death toll reaches 600
An armed Shiite Houthi rebel walks above debris on April 12, 2015 at the compound of Sanaa's al-Yarmuk football club which was reportedly hit by an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition the previous day in the Yemeni capital's northern al-Rawda district. (AFP/File)
UN Chief Ban Ki-moon urged the warring rivals in Yemen to resume dialogue immediately, regretting that around 600 people had been killed and 2,000 wounded in the ongoing fighting in the war-torn country.
"The United Nations has been facilitating this [dialogue] process through my Special Envoy Jamal Benomar," Ban told a press conference with Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani in Doha. "We were very close to establish a national unity government."
The UN chief went on to blame the Shiite Houthi militant group and "some divisive manipulation by the former president" Ali Abdullah Saleh for the deterioration of the situation in Yemen in recent months.
"Unfortunately this sudden military takeover by Houthis has led inevitably to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries taking military actions," he said.
"While I have taken note that such military action, which was initiated at the request of the sovereign and legitimate President of Yemen… having seen continuing tragic consequences where more than 600 people were killed and more than 2,000 people wounded, [I believe] it is important and necessary that the dialogue should prevail," he added.
Ban also termed as "unacceptable" the Houthis' attempt "to control the country by force" and also voiced concerns of the military escalation, mounting civilian casualties and destruction of vital public infrastructure.
He also asserted that the Yemeni crisis "should not be allowed to grow into a protracted regional conflict."
"We urgently need a de-escalation and a return to peaceful negotiations," he asserted.
"I firmly believe that the UN-brokered negotiations remain the best chance to prevent a long drawn out conflict," he added.
Since March 25, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been pounding Houthi positions across Yemen.
Riyadh says its anti-Houthi campaign comes in response to appeals by embattled President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi for military intervention against Houthis.
The United States, for its part, is providing logistical and intelligence support to the ongoing anti-Houthi offensive.
The Houthis, for their part, consider the "Saudi-American onslaught" a "blatant violation of Yemeni territory."
Yemen has remained in turmoil since last September, when the Houthis overran capital Sanaa, from which they have since sought to extend their influence to other parts of the fractious country.
Some Gulf States accuse Shiite Iran of supporting Yemen's Houthi insurgency.