UN picks Swedish diplomat as new envoy to Yemen

UN picks Swedish diplomat as new envoy to Yemen: diplomats
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Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg has been appointed as the new special envoy to Yemen, according to diplomats.
Yemen has been ravaged by war since 2014 [Getty]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has named Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg as his new special envoy to conflict-wracked Yemen, diplomats said Thursday.

Guterres made his choice known to the UN Security Council's 15 member states, and Grundberg's formal nomination should be made public soon, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.

Grundberg - a Middle East specialist who has served as the European Union's ambassador to Yemen since 2019 - would replace Britain's Martin Griffiths, who was named in May to be the world body's under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

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In June, Griffiths told the Security Council his efforts to end years of war in Yemen had failed, expressing his "deep regret" not to have made more progress during his three years in the post.

Conflict flared in Yemen in 2014 when Houthi insurgents seized the capital Sanaa, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention to prop up the government the following year.

Some 80 percent of Yemenis are now dependent on aid, in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The war has also displaced millions of people and hit the country's already fragile economy.

Yemen is split between an internationally recognised government in the south, backed by a Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi movement that controls most of the north and the main port of Hodeidah on the Red Sea.

Each side also has a central bank with opposing policies.

The IMF and the United Nations has tried since 2018 without success to reunite the central banks as part of wider stalled efforts to end the war.

Read also: 320 fighters killed in battle in central Yemen, officials say

Hadi's government accuses the Houthis of diverting port revenues from Hodeidah, the main entry for Yemen's commercial and aid flows. The Houthis want the coalition to lift the blockade before agreeing to any renewed peace talks.

Yemen's economy was fragile even before the war erupted in 2014, but the International Monetary Fund now describes it as facing "an acute economic and humanitarian crisis".

Spiralling inflation has compounded the misery in a country where most of the 29 million people rely on aid to stay alive.