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Errol Mendes is a professor of constitutional and international law at the University of Ottawa and president of the International Commission of Jurists, Canada

Canada has shown it can be a honest broker during some of the most difficult political and conflict-ridden situations. Examples in the past have included the actions of Lester Pearson during the 1956 Suez crisis that earned him a Nobel Peace Prize.

More recently, Canada helped the former U.S. administration led by President Barack Obama establish diplomatic relations with Cuba, a success that will not be tarnished by the unravelling of that achievement by the Donald Trump administration. One individual Canadian, Frank Pearl, was instrumental in the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in its Spanish acronym), hopefully bringing an end to a five-decade conflict that has resulted in the deaths of more than 200,000 people.

Now Canada should try to be be an impartial mediator in the conflict in Yemen, one that is destroying one of the poorest nations in the world. Some of the most powerful nations in world are complicit in the ongoing tragedy.

With the killing of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on Monday, Yemen – already the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world – is likely to see even more suffering. Mr. Saleh was killed by his former allies, the Iran-aided Houthi rebels. The full impact of the revenge that will exacted by Mr. Saleh's supporters and the Saudi-led international coalition against the rebels will result in many more civilian deaths, disease and starvation.

Already, the BBC is reporting that air strikes have intensified, and the Red Cross has estimated that at least 125 people have been killed and many more injured. Since 2015, approximately 9,000 people have been killed and 50,000 injured. The results of a blockade of seaports by the Saudi-led coalition has left 20 million Yemenis subject to extreme food insecurity, and the international aid group Save the Children warns that up to 50,000 children could die of starvation. Meanwhile, the lack of medicine and the devastation of sanitary infrastructure has led to a cholera outbreak that has already killed more than 2,000 people since the violence began.

The misery that has been inflicted on the people in Yemen is the result of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis support the ousted internationally recognized government of Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who has gone into exile, while Iran has supported the Shia Muslim Houthis.

Because some of the great powers, such as the United States, are implicated in this proxy war due to their military assistance and geopolitical ambitions with either Iran or Saudi Arabia, there is a need for third countries, such as Canada, to play the role of mediator and engage in "track two" processes, perhaps outside the region. This could involve bringing together key leaders from all sides of the conflict to engage in proposals for de-escalation of the violence and bombing that allows for a meaningful humanitarian pause to permit access to critical food, medicine and humanitarian assistance.

If these actions are successful, they could be followed by mediated and renewed discussion of the prior proposals for a future federated Yemen that could deal with the traditional demands of the Houthis and other tribal groups. There is no guarantee that the parties would agree to any mediator role for Canada in this desperate humanitarian crisis. But if this country wants to be worthy of a future seat on the UN Security Council, it is this type of offer Canada must engage in.

Ahmed Ali Saleh, the son of Yemen's slain ex-president, has called for revenge against the Houthi militia that killed him. Much will depend on whether he manages to command the supporters of his strongman father.

Reuters