The UN special envoy to Yemen has said he hopes an agreement in Hodeidah can be a precursor to a wider peace agreement Yemen’s three-year war.
The comments from Martin Griffiths followed meetings with Houthi officials in Muscat, ending a round of peace talks that has seen him shuttle between Aden and Sanaa in an effort to avert a military confrontation over the city and its port.
Mr Griffiths tweeted: “Negotiations ongoing. The SE had a constructive meeting with President Hadi in Aden, looking @ ways to turn #Hudaydah crisis into an #opportunity to resume the political process in #Yemen.”
He added that he “hopes to make Hudaydah the first step towards peace in #Yemen instead of a step further towards war.”
US Central Command head, General Joseph Votel, called on Iran to stop supporting the Houthis.
He told reporters: “They [Iran] have sent advance missiles into north-west Yemen, being used to threaten Saudi and other countries on the Arabian Peninsula.
“We call on Iran to play a more constructive role in the region and stop supporting these proxy groups.”
The comments came as Yemeni forces on Wednesday recaptured Houthi-held pockets in Al Faza, south of Hodeidah, in an effort to stabilise the Red Sea Coast which has been the site of Houthi ambushes since the Hodeidah offensive began.
There were clashes along the Red Sea coast, with Wam reporting that coalition-backed forces had killed 34 Houthi fighters in heavy fighting on Thursday.
"This operation aims to secure the southern areas in Hodeidah before releasing a wider military operation to finish liberating the port and the city centre of Hodeidah," Col Yehya Al Wahish of the Hodeidah 1st Brigade told The National.
On Wednesday, more than 15 civilians were killed when Houthi fighters attacked Al Rasaba neighbourhood near Hodeidah airport.
Arab-Coalition planes dropped leaflets warning civilians not to travel to the city “unless necessary”, in a move some observers claimed was a sign an assault was imminent.
Meanwhile, a high-ranking commander affiliated with Al Qaeda was arrested in Hadramawt province, Lt Mohammed Al Zubairi of the Barasheed Brigade told The National.
"Elite forces in the Barasheed Brigade successfully carried out on Wednesday unprecedented military operations [that] led to the capture of Awadh Abood Basaker, a prominent commander in Al Qaeda, while he was hiding in a house in Mayfa'a Hajer," Lt Al Zubairi said.
"Basaker is one of the most dangerous individuals in Al Qaeda in Hadramawt, and is responsible for the slaughter of 10 soldiers from the elite Hadramawt forces while they were serving in a checkpoint in the Al Aqeek area in western Al Mukalla," he said.
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This article has been amended following an incorrect reference to the UN special envoy to Yemen