UN Yemen envoy named humanitarian chief

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Martin Griffiths, seen speaking in Berlin in April 2021, has been named the UN humanitarian chief

Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy struggling to end the bloody war in Yemen, was named Wednesday to be the global body's humanitarian chief.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appointment of Griffiths as under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs keeps the prominent post in the hands of a British diplomat, succeeding Mark Lowcock.

Similarly, two other top positions, under-secretary-general for political affairs and under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, have stayed respectively with diplomats from the United States and France despite a 1992 General Assembly resolution that opposed the "monopoly" of the major powers in key jobs.

Griffiths, 69, has earned the appreciation of Security Council nations for persevering even in the most dire situations, including in the Yemen post that he assumed in 2018.

The United Nations has described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian situation, with 80 percent of the population relying on assistance as Saudi Arabia carries out a devastating campaign aimed at rooting out Huthi rebels who control much of the country.

Griffiths -- like his predecessor as envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania -- failed to stop the conflict and suffered a rupture of relations with the Huthis, who are tied to Iran.

The United States last week denounced the Huthis for refusing to meet Griffiths as President Joe Biden's administration steps up diplomacy to end the war.

"A mediator cannot force the parties to negotiate," Griffiths told a Security Council meeting on Wednesday as he deplored the "relentless military escalation" by the Huthis as they try to take the last northern government stronghold of Marib.

It was not immediately clear who would take on the UN job on Yemen.

Lowcock, the outgoing under-secretary-general, earlier this year said he wanted to step down and rejoin his family in Britain.

Griffiths has long worked in humanitarian roles at the United Nations, including coordinating efforts in the Great Lakes region of Africa in the 1990s.

He also served as an adviser to former secretary general Kofi Annan during his bid to end Syria's civil war and, before the Yemen job, led the European Institute of Peace in Brussels.

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