An armed personnel carrier belonging to the Yemeni government troops head to the frontline in Hodeida. Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: UAE Minsiter of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, has tweeted that the coalition fighting to restore the internationally-recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Yemen had paused its advance on the port city of Hodeida on June 23 to allow one week for Al Houthis to engage in serious negotiations.

“We continue our pressure in the meantime and await the results of UN envoy Martin Griffiths on this matter,” he said.

If the patient efforts of the coalition fail, however, the coalition will continue with its military campaign to ultimately bring about the liberation of Hodeida and force Al Houthis into serious talks.

“It remains to be seen if Al Houthis are serious about engaging in talks or just using negotiations as a tactic to buy time,” Gargash said, pointing to a recent statement that Al Houthis made declaring their intention to recapture territory it lost to Yemeni and coalition forces over the past few years.

“This statement is a clear defiance to the international community,” he said.

Workers of the International Migration Organisation (IOM) help people, displaced by the fighting in the Red Sea port. Reuters

Gargash said that the international community has not pressed Al Houthis hard enough on their continued violations, citing their planting of landmines, snipers and weapons in civilian areas.

He also accuses Al Houthis of forcibly conscripting civilians, including some 15,000 children, into their army and obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid.

“The action we have already taken will provide a sufficient basis for their unconditional withdrawal from the city and port,” he said.

“We welcome the continuing efforts by Griffiths to achieve an unconditional withdrawal from the entire city of Hodeida, including the port, and have paused our campaign to allow enough time for this option to be fully explored.”

He added that the campaign comes within the broader context of supporting the legitimate government of Yemen and UN Security Council Resolution 2216.

The Yemeni government on Saturday demanded the “complete withdrawal” of Al Houthi militants from the coastal city of Hodeida, a day after a UN mediator said the country’s warring sides were willing to revive peace talks.

“Al Houthi militias’ complete and unconditional withdrawal from Hodeida and its port is the basis of the UN-led peace process,” the government said in a statement on the official news agency Saba.

This month, the 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, UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin 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.

Al Houthis have been in control of Hodeida since October 2014, a month after they overran the capital Sana’a in a coup against the internationally recognised government.