Antonio Guterres says there is a ‘chance’ to begin negotiations with Gulf Kingdom in December to end war
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he was ready to meet Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to advance diplomatic efforts to end the war in Yemen.
Guterres will travel later Wednesday to Buenos Aires to attend the G20 summit that will see the prince make a first major appearance on the world stage since the brutal killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The U.N. chief told reporters “there is a chance” that talks on ending the war in Yemen could begin in early December in Sweden and that this was “an extremely important objective.”
“I am ready to discuss it with the crown prince or with any Saudi official because I believe it is a very important objective at the present moment,” said Guterres.
The U.N. chief’s readiness to hold talks with the Saudi leader came amid speculation that the 33-year-old prince could be treated as a pariah at the G20 over the Khashoggi murder, which triggered a global outcry. “We are at a very crucial moment in relation to Yemen,” said Guterres who added that he had spoken earlier in the day to his U.N. peace envoy Martin Griffiths. “I believe there is a chance to be able to start effective negotiations in Sweden early in December, but we are not yet there.”
Griffiths is hoping to bring the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi rebels to Sweden for negotiations that could begin as early as Dec. 3, according to U.N. diplomats.
The war has left millions on the brink of starvation and unleashed what the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Saudi Arabia has faced fresh calls to end the war in Yemen following the murder of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Guterres, who has called for a thorough and transparent investigation of Khashoggi’s murder, said he would not shy away from reiterating his position in a private conversation with the prince. “I have never a problem in saying publicly and privately the same thing,” he said.