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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

UN envoy expected to confirm Yemen peace talks in Sweden

Martin Griffiths will tell Security Council obstacles to rebel participation cleared, diplomatic source says

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths will brief the Security Councile on November 16, 2018. Reuters
The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths will brief the Security Councile on November 16, 2018. Reuters

The United Nations special envoy to Yemen will on Friday unveil plans for peace talks to be held in Stockholm at the end of the month as he updates the Security Council on his work to find a political solution to almost four years of war.

Martin Griffiths is expected to tell the UN’s Security Council that he has made progress on stumbling blocks that scuppered talks in September.

His update comes amid a pause in fighting around Yemen’s main port city city of Hodeidah and renewed international pressure to end a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people.

A diplomatic source at the UN said: “The challenge will be securing the participation of both sides particularly following the difficulties of the Geneva round where the Houthis didn’t participate.”

Mr Griffiths will tell the council he is intending to invite the warring parties to Stockholm by the end of the year and has made progress on seeking Houthi assurances that they will halt rocket launches, which have in the past threatened the Saudi capital Riyadh, and on finding agreement on evacuating wounded rebel fighters, the source said.

Diplomats at the UN are hoping he sticks to a previously announced date of November 29, which would meet a US deadline for talks to begin by the end of the month.

Mr Griffiths is expected to tell the UN’s most powerful body that the next round of negotiations will focus on two issues: confidence-building measures and establishing a framework for a political settlement to end the conflict.

He will also underline the importance of supporting the Yemeni economy, such as shoring up the Central Bank of Yemen and state institutions to ensure public employees are paid and continue to deliver vital services.

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On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister said the kingdom supported UN-led peace efforts.

“We support a peaceful solution in Yemen and we support the efforts of the UN special envoy to Yemen," Adel Al Jubeir told reporters. “We are committed to delivering all the necessary humanitarian aid to our brothers in Yemen.”

Saudi Arabia leads the Arab military coalition which intervened in the war in March 2015 to support the Yemen government against the Iranian-backed Houthi movement, which seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The UAE, a key pillar of the coalition, has also welcomed an early resumption of talks. Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said in a tweet on Wednesday that the coalition "will urge all parties to take advantage of window of opportunity to restart political process".

Humanitarian groups are warning that Yemen stands on the brink of famine and that any intensification of recent fighting around Hodeidah – the port city through which 80 per cent of the country’s food imports and aid supplies arrive – would risk a famine.

The World Food Programme says it is preparing to scale up food and cash assistance for as many as 12 million people who are in desperate need.

David Beasley, its executive director, and Mark Lowcock, the UN’s humanitarian chief, will also deliver reports amid a new push for talks.

However, the warring parties will have to set aside deep mistrust in order to meet.

A previous round was abandoned in September after three days of waiting for a Houthi delegation that failed to arrive. They later said they did not receive assurances about the safe passage of wounded fighters.

Diplomats hope the time is now right for progress.