Yemen is a time bomb, says Ban Ki-moon

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Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to the press at UN Headquarters in Geneva following meetings on Yemen. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

Consultations to decide Yemen's future began at the UN in Geneva on Monday with a warning from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that the country is "a time bomb" requiring immediate help.

In an appeal to warring sides to lay down their weapons for at least two weeks so the people of Yemen can celebrate Ramadan, Mr Ban said the country's very existence hangs in the balance while parties "bicker", as he put it.

The UN chief explained that logistical issues had prevented all delegations from making it to the start of the consultations, but he insisted that they were nonetheless "on their way".

Daniel Johnson reports.

On the first day of consultations in Geneva, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was the international community's duty to stop the suffering in Yemen.

"We have a special obligation to act. Even before the terrible fighting, Yemen was one of the world's poorest countries in one of the world's richest neighbourhoods…Today Yemen's very existence hangs in the balance; while parties bicker, Yemen burns."

The UN chief told journalists he'd held "very constructive" talks with the Yemeni government and the so-called "Group of 16-plus Ambassadors" to the war-torn nation.

But he was unable to meet participants loyal to former president Ali Abdallah Saleh, as they'd been temporarily delayed by "purely logistical issues".

In a call for a ceasefire of at least two weeks, the UN Secretary-General warned that the conflict was giving new strength to some of the world's most ruthless terrorist groups.

More than 2,600 people have died in fighting since an escalation of the conflict in mid-March, according to the UN chief, while 80 per cent of Yemen's population is in need of humanitarian aid.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1'09"

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