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UN envoy visits Yemen for talks on key port city

Griffiths has said a proposal to grant the UN a major role in managing the port was being studied

Image Credit: AFP
The UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths meets with the undersecretary of Huthi rebel government's foreign ministry, Faisal Amin Abu Rass.
Gulf News

Dubai: The United Nations envoy for Yemen arrived in Sana’a on Monday for another round of talks aimed at finding a solution to fighting in the key militant-held port city of Hodeida.

Martin Griffiths is set to meet with Yemen’s Al Houthi militants, who control the capital along with the Red Sea city of Hodeida, home to the country’s most valuable port.

He did not make a statement upon his arrival at the Yemeni capital’s international airport.

Two weeks of UN-brokered talks have not yet found a solution to stop a government offensive on Hodeida, backed by the United Arab Emirates and its allies in a Saudi-led regional coalition supporting President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The United Arab Emirates said Sunday it had paused the offensive to give a chance to UN diplomatic efforts.

Hodeida port is the entry port for some 70 per cent of imports to Yemen, where eight million people face imminent famine.

Both the UAE and the Hadi government have held firm to their rejection of anything short of a full Al Houthi withdrawal.

Griffiths has said a proposal to grant the UN a major role in managing the port was being studied.

The UN envoy met with Hadi in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday and is reported to be pushing for the Al Houthis to cede control of Hodeida to the United Nations.

He was also in Oman on Thursday, where he met top rebel negotiator Mohammad Abdul Salam, UN radio reported.

Al Houuthis have controlled Hodeida and its port since 2014, when they also drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swathes of northern Yemen.

That sparked a Saudi-led intervention to restore the internationally-recognised govenrment of Hadi.

This month, government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, unleashed a military campaign aimed at expelling Al Houthis from Hodeida, a Red Sea city.

They have since made territorial gains, including the takeover of the city’s airport.

The offensive is the largest in Yemen’s three-year-old war.

The government said Saturday that Yemeni forces are prepared to liberate Hodeida.

“The Hodeida liberation operation comes within the government’s commitment to protect Yemen and its people from the repeated aggression by Al Houthis militias on the Yemeni state,” it added.

“Efforts to arrange a ceasefire will not be successful due to Al Houthis’ intransigence against carrying a complete withdrawal from Hodeida and other Yemeni provinces.”

In recent weeks, Griffiths, has stepped up his efforts to stave off an all-out battle in Hodeida and relaunch Yemen’s long-stalled peace negotiations.

On Friday, he told the UN radio that the Yemeni government and the Iran-allied Al Houthis confirmed willingness to restart the peace talks that he expected in the next few weeks.

Hodeida is strategically important because it has a harbour, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, as most of the commercial imports and relief supplies enter through it to the country.

The Arab Coalition accuses Al Houthis of taking advantage of their control of the harbour to obtain weapons from their Iranian patrons as well as confiscate aid intended for Yemenis in order to sustain their war efforts.

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