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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

UN chief urges Yemen peace talks 

The conflict in the Arab nation is in its fourth year

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrives for the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, in Geneva, Switzerland. Pierre Albouy/ Reuters
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrives for the High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, in Geneva, Switzerland. Pierre Albouy/ Reuters

The United Nations Secretary General has called for both sides in the Yemen conflict to come to a political agreement to end a war that has now entered its fourth year.

The UN is seeking a $3 billion (Dh11bn) humanitarian plan for Yemen to help 22 million people who have been left in urgent need of aid.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva on Tuesday, Antonio Guterres said: "I urge all parties to engage with my new Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, without delay."

The UN chief also appealed for ports to be kept open for food and aid to reach those who need it, adding that Sana'a airport is a "lifeline that must be kept open".

Alistair Burt, Britain's Minister for the Middle East, announced a £170 million aid package for Yemenis at the conference, while calling on both sides in the conflict to return to peace talks.

"Only a political agreement can bring an end to this humanitarian crisis," Mr Burt said. "For the sake of all Yemenis, we urge all parties to return to the negotiating table to find an inclusive political solution, and the UK is continuing to do all it can diplomatically to ensure such an outcome.”

UAE and coalition pitch in

Reem Al Hashimy, the UAE’s Minister of State for International Co-operation, said: “We are confirming the UAE’s support, as part of the Arab Coalition, for any efforts to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people.”

The UAE last week pledged $500m to support the UN's 2018 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan.

The Arab coalition has announced the provision of $1.5bn to support that programme, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia alone providing $1bn.

The coalition countries announced a plan to aid access to various Yemeni regions through the rehabilitation of roads, ports and airports to increase the flow of goods, relief aid and fuel for hospitals, power plants and public buildings.

About $40m has been earmarked to expand capacity at Yemeni ports to accommodate additional shipments, with an additional $30m being spent on reducing the cost of land transportation through road upgrades.

There will also be 17 safe-passage corridors opened, originating from six points of entry to ensure safe overland transport of aid to NGOs operating in Yemen.

The UN appeal comes hours after Houthi rebels in Yemen launched a missile towards a heavily populated Saudi Arabian city, which failed to cross the border, according to the Arab Coalition forces.

The Saudi Air Defence Forces said the missile plummeted on Monday evening and hit the ground about one mile from the border, saying its intended target was Dhahran Al Janub.

It was not immediately clear if the missile was intercepted by Saudi Arabia's missile defence system.

The attack is further evidence of Iran's backing of the Houthis, said Colonel Turki Al Malki, spokesman for the Coalition Forces.

Spokesman for the Arab Coalition Forces, Colonel Turki Al Malki, said the Saudi navy destroyed two Houthi explosive boats, on September 30, 2018. AFP
Spokesman for the Arab Coalition Forces, Colonel Turki Al Malki, said the Saudi navy destroyed two Houthi explosive boats, on September 30, 2018. AFP

He said the missile was intended to cause civilian casualties, violating UN resolutions and an attempt at disrupting Saudi Arabia's security.

"Firing ballistic missiles in the direction of populated towns and villages contravenes the international human rights law," Col Al Malki said.

Houthi rebels also attacked a Saudi oil tanker in the Red Sea on Tuesday, causing minor damage to the ship, the coalition said. Colonel Al Malki said the attack was in international waters west of the port of Hodeidah in Yemen, which is under Houthi control.

The coalition said a naval ship belonging to a member country rapidly intervened.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni army tightened its grip around Sada on Monday, advancing from four fronts on to the Houthi-held province.

This comes as part of an offensive to capture the Marran mountains, birthplace of the Houthi leader, Abdul Malik Al Houthi.

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Read more:

Iran provides Yemen’s Houthis material for explosives, report says

UN Security Council condemns Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia

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In the battle for Taez province, which has been at a stalemate since 2016, the Yemeni army secured new strategic posts to the south of city, according to the coalition.

The army was also successful in controlling the Shaifan mountain range surrounding the city, allowing the coalition to cut a crucial Houthi supply route.