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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Arab Coalition throws its weight behind Yemen peace talks

Mr Gargash lauded the UN envoy for his progress

United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths walks in a hotel lobby before meeting the delegation of the Government of Yemen in Geneva, Switzerland.. REUTERS 
United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths walks in a hotel lobby before meeting the delegation of the Government of Yemen in Geneva, Switzerland.. REUTERS 

The UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash has affirmed the Arab Coalition's support for Yemen peace talks, which were announced by the UN special envoy on Friday as the Houthi rebels resumed attacks in the port city of Hodeidah.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that Yemen's warring parties had agreed to hold talks after confidence-building measures are taken, including the coalition's agreement to allow injured rebel fighters to leave the country for treatment. However, the issue of prisoner exchanges still had to be resolved, he said.

Yemen’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak said on Saturday that the government supported any confidence-building measures proposed by Mr Griffiths, including a prisoner swap.

He expressed hope the Houthis would show up to negotiations with a serious intent to consider the proposed trust-building measures.

Meanwhile, Dr Gargash lauded the UN envoy for his progress.

"Strongly supportive of the mission of Martin Griffiths and progress he is making. Political solution key to addressing humanitarian situation on the ground. Hope that all parties will participate in good faith in the next round of talks in Sweden," Dr Gargash said on Twitter.

"In the meantime, the Arab Coalition will continue to assist the government of Yemen in keeping humanitarian supplies flowing, stabilising the currency, and in planning for post-conflict development."

The issue of economic assistance was raised by David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme, in his briefing on Yemen to the Security Council. He said that besides aid, "an economic infusion of substantial liquidity" was needed to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Mark Lowcock, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told the council a Saudi injection of funds in the Central Bank had strengthened the rial and may have helped reduce food prices, while also praising a Saudi and UAE donation to pay teachers' allowances.

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The two coalition members are also the biggest donors to the UN Yemen's Humanitarian Response Plan in 2018, contributing more than half of the $2.9bn amount. Separately, the UAE has spent more than $4bn on rehabilitation and welfare initiatives for Yemeni citizens between April 2015 and September this year. These include the distribution of food, rebuilding of schools and hospitals, restoring power and water supply and paying salaries of government workers in essential services.

Friday's Security Council briefing came as a truce in Hodeidah, implemented in anticipation of peace talks, was broken by heavy rebel shelling in which three children were killed.

Col Mamoon Al Mahjami of the Al Amalikah Brigades said the Houthis attacked government forces and civilians in the Kilo 16 near Hodeidah and in the 7 July area of the city.

"They kept shelling the whole day on Friday using artillery and mortars and carried on mining the approaches to the ports," Col Al Mahjami told The National.

He said the Houthi actions suggested they were preparing for further combat.

"They pushed military reinforcements into the city and posted new fighters in the residential areas and stationed hundreds of snipers on the rooftops of the buildings. They are preparing for a new round of fighting, not for peace," he said.

A resident of the 7 July neighbourhood in eastern Hodeidah said three girls were killed and three men were injured when a Houthi mortar shell hit their home in the area on Friday night.

"They kept shelling different areas the whole day," the resident told The National.

They said the rebels were seen marking the walls of homes vacated by residents who fled the city so that newly arrived fighters from Sanaa and the northern provinces could take up positions there.