The U.N. envoy for Yemen says the conflict-torn Middle East nation is "one step" from famine, with 31 million people needing humanitarian assistance compared to just 7 million two years ago.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told reporters after briefing the Security Council behind closed doors Wednesday that all parties to the conflict are responsible for the dire suffering of Yemen's people.

Ahmed, who mediated talks between the parties in Geneva last week, said that despite the failure to reach any agreement "there is an emerging common ground upon which we can build."

He called for a humanitarian pause during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as a first step toward a sustainable cease-fire that would be monitored by "an international, impartial mechanism."