January 22, 2018 / 6:38 PM / 10 months ago

U.N. Yemen mediator to step down next month - U.N. spokesman

FILE PHOTO - United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, speaks to reporters upon his arrival at Sanaa airport on a visit to Sanaa, Yemen May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Monday that its mediator for Yemen will step down next month after nearly three years trying to end the country’s conflict.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wants to quickly appoint a new special envoy for Yemen to replace Ould Cheikh Ahmed when his current contract finishes at the end of February, said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

“The Special Envoy remains committed to pursue through diplomacy an end to the violence and a political solution that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people, until a successor is named,” Dujarric said.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015, backing government forces fighting Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The country, which relies heavily on imports for food is on the brink of famine and nearly 1 million people have been infected with cholera.

“In this moment, (Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s) thoughts go first to the Yemeni people who are worn out by this conflict and are enduring one of the most devastating humanitarian crisis in the world,” Dujarric said.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s convoy was attacked in May last year in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa while he was travelling from the airport to the U.N. compound. The Houthi-run Saba news agency denied there was an attack.

A Houthi spokesman later accused Ould Cheikh Ahmed of bias.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown

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