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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Mattis says Hodeidah operation halted ahead of Yemen talks 

Offensive in spotlight as envoys works to launch UN-led peace talks in Sweden next month

Defence secretary Jim Mattis, speaks to reporters at the Pentagon last month. Manuel Balce Ceneta/ AP Photo
Defence secretary Jim Mattis, speaks to reporters at the Pentagon last month. Manuel Balce Ceneta/ AP Photo

Arab-coalition backed forces have halted their advance on the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, according to US Secretary of Defence, James Mattis.

He said that front lines around the city had not changed in the past 72 hours. The comments came as UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths arrived in Sanaa to lay the groundwork for next month's talks.

It is believed Mr Griffiths will travel to Hodeidah on Thursday. The key Yemeni port city is the gateway for most of the country's food supplies.

Mr Mattis also issued assurances that peace talks would take place in Sweden in early December. "It looks like that very, very early in December, up in Sweden, we'll see both the Houthi rebel side and the UN-recognized government, President Hadi's government, will be up there,” he told reporters.

Mr Mattis added that both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “are fully on board” with the efforts of the UN envoy to assemble all sides in the conflict at the table for the first time in years.

Diplomats are attempting to thrash out the terms of a UN Security Council resolution that would pave the way for a ceasefire in the three year war.

The draft resolution urging an immediate truce in Hodeidah and setting a two-week deadline for the warring sides to remove barriers to humanitarian aid.

"The only solution is for all the parties to set aside their arms, cease missile and air attacks on populated areas and pursue a peaceful political settlement," British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told parliament on Wednesday.

He said the draft resolution was "designed to get a consensus from both sides that allow talks to start" quickly.