(AA) — The UN Special Adviser on Yemen has stepped down from his post as the fighting in the impoverished country continues to escalate, the UN said Wednesday.
Moroccan diplomat Jamal Benomar “has expressed an interest in moving on to another assignment,” the UN spokesperson’s office said in a statement. “A successor shall be named in due course.”
Benomar has worked on mediating negotiations among Yemen’s rival factions since 2011, when a wave of popular demonstrations sweept across the Arab world. One year later, a popular uprising ended the rule of longstanding Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Although talks led to a national partnership agreement to give more power to regions, Shiite Houthi rebels in the north openly turned against the process as they complained it isolated them.
A dramatic escalation of violence interrupted the talks altogether following the September 2014 takeover of government institutions and parts of the country by Houthis.
“Mr. Benomar has spent the past four years working closely with the Yemenis to realize their legitimate aspirations for democratic change fulfilled,” the UN said.
“The Secretary-General greatly appreciates the tireless efforts Mr. Benomar has made over the years to promote consensus and trust on a peaceful way forward in Yemen.”
According to media reports, Benomar could be replaced by Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who currently leads the UN’s Ebola response mission.
The Houthi advance to the country’s southern port city of Aden prompted a Saudi-led military campaign formed with a coalition of Sunni Arab powers. Airsrikes have pounded Houthi positions since March 25.
The UN reports more than 700 deaths between March 19 and April 12.
The current conflict is seen in some circles as a proxy war between predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia and majority Shiite Iran.
On March 22, Benomar warned that Yemen was on a “rapid downward spiral” toward the “edge of civil war.”