Yemen at ‘edge of civil war,’ warns UN envoy

Jamal Benomar says recent events may turn the country into a “protracted” conflict zone in vein of a 'Libya-Syria combined scenario'

U.N. Special Adviser on Yemen Jamal Benomar warned Sunday that Yemen was on a “rapid downward spiral” toward the “edge of civil war.”

“Emotions are running extremely high and, unless solutions can be found, the country will fall into further violent confrontations,” Benomar told an emergency Security Council session via video conference. “Events in Yemen are leading the country away from political settlement and to the edge of civil war.”

He said the conflict began to take on “worrying sectarian tones,” and stressed that peaceful political dialogue was the only way forward in the settlement.

The situation in Yemen has been rapidly deteriorating in recent months, with the Shiite Houthi group seeking to expand its influence beyond the capital Sanaa, which they took over last September.

“Any side that would want to push the country in either direction would be inviting a protracted conflict in the vein of an Iraq-Libya-Syria combined scenario,” he told an emergency Security Council session via video conference.

Also during the session, the Security Council condemned the takeover of much of Yemen by the Houthis and warned of “further measures” if the Shia group does not withdraw their forces from government institutions.

“The Security Council condemns the ongoing unilateral actions taken by the Houthis, which undermine the political transition process in Yemen, and jeopardize the security, stability, sovereignty and unity of Yemen,” read the unanimously adopted presidential statement.

The council expressed its support to Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who has escaped to the southern port city of Aden after the takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthis.

The fractious Arab state has remained in a state of turmoil since pro-democracy protests forced autocratic president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down in 2012 after 33 years in power.

The Security Council also deplored that the Houthis had not implemented its demands in a Feb. 15 resolution to “immediately and unconditionally” withdraw their forces from Sanaa and relinquish government and security institutions.

The statement called for an end to “external interference” that “seeks to foment conflict and instability” in the country.

Earlier Sunday, Houthi gunmen took control of the airport in the strategic central city of Taiz, in the latest sign of escalation.

Their advance came two days after twin suicide attacks on two mosques frequented by Houthis in Sanaa killed more than 120 people. The terrorist group Daesh reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks.