FRI 15 - 2 - 2019
Date: Jul 3, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
U.N. envoy in Yemen for talks with rebels on Hudaida
Agence France Presse
SANAA: The U.N. envoy for Yemen was in Sanaa Monday for talks with rebels aimed at finding a solution to fighting in the port city of Hodeida, which the insurgents hold.

Martin Griffiths is set to meet with the Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who control the capital along with the Red Sea city of Hudaida, home to the country’s most valuable port.

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

Griffiths had already been leading U.N. diplomatic efforts on ending Yemen’s three-year conflict when a UAE-backed government offensive was launched to retake Hudaida port on June 13.

The UAE, which is part of a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting on the side of the government since March 2015, has been demanding that the rebels withdraw from both the port and city to avoid a military assault on densely populated Hudaida.

“The U.N. special envoy [is] expected ... to sit down with the militia group [Houthis] to try and find a political solution and to achieve a general framework for negotiations,” said Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for a Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

“The Houthis are yet to change their position,” he said Monday, referring to the coalition demand for their withdrawal.

“The operation continues to put pressure to change the position” of the Houthis, he added.

Two weeks of United Nations shuttle diplomacy have not yet found a solution to the offensive on Hudaida, backed by the United Arab Emirates and its allies supporting President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi.

The Hudaida offensive has raised fears for civilians in a country already devastated by years of war between the Houthis and Hadi’s Gulf-backed government.

The UAE said Sunday it had halted the offensive to give a chance to U.N. diplomatic efforts.

Hudaida port is the entry point for some 70 percent of imports to Yemen, where 8 million people face imminent famine.

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

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

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

He was also in Oman Thursday, where he met top rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam, U.N. radio reported.The Houthis have controlled Hudaida and its port since 2014, when they also drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swaths of northern Yemen.

That sparked a Saudi-led intervention to prop up Hadi’s government, since which some 10,000 people have died.

The fight for Hudaida has claimed 429 lives, according to military and medical sources.

There are no confirmations of civilian casualties, although the U.N. has documented thousands of residents fleeing combat zones.

The United Nations has called Yemen the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

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