A woman displaced from the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah pulls empty canisters outside her family shelter in Sanaa, Yemen. Image Credit: Reuters

United Nations - The UN envoy for Yemen announced Friday the country’s internationally recognised government and rival Al Houthi militia have agreed to attend talks aimed at ending their three-year war.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that he planned to bring the warring parties together “soon” in Sweden. He also said the Al Houthis and the government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition, were about to conclude an agreement on exchanging prisoners and detainees.

“We must seize this positive international momentum on Yemen,” he told the UN’s most powerful body. “This is an opportunity at a crucial moment to pursue a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement to the conflict.”

Griffiths said preparatory issues for the meeting are close to being resolved and he has sent the parties his “vision” for “UN-led, inclusive Yemeni negotiations to end the war and restart a political transition process”.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital of Sana’a by the Iranian-backed Al Houthis, which toppled the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Al Houthis since 2015.

The Yemeni civil society representative, Rasha Jarhum, also spoke at the session, and called for aid in all aspects.

She also highlighted the issues of female university students being subjected to Al Houthi violence and the rising numbers of child recruitment by Al Houthis.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict, which has killed over 10,000 people and created what the executive director of the UN’s World Food Program said Friday is “a catastrophe.”

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who warned the council on October 23 that the economic crisis and escalating conflict had pushed Yemen closer to famine than ever before, also urged its members to take action now.

Britain’s UN ambassador, Karen Pierce, said she will circulate a Security Council resolution Monday to address the Yemen crisis and put Lowcock’s requests “into practice.”

US deputy ambassador Jonathan Cohen told the council: “This war must end soon, and it won’t end on the battlefield.” He reiterated US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s words: “The United States seeks a cessation of hostilities in Yemen.”

Lowcock noted that after an upsurge in fighting immediately after his October 23 briefing to the council, there has been “a welcome de-escalation” in the last two days.

“But what we need to know is that this lull is going to be sustained,” Lowcock said. “It remains urgent for the parties to agree a cessation of hostilities.”