UN envoy Martin Griffiths holds talks with Houthi rebels to salvage Hodeidah ceasefire
Second trip to Sanaa this month with no progress on truce agreed to at Sweden talks
The UN special envoy to Yemen arrived in Sanaa on Monday for talks with Houthi rebel leaders on salvaging the ceasefire in Hodeidah.
Martin Griffiths hosted peace talks in Sweden last month between the government and Iran-backed rebels that resulted in agreements on the ceasefire and a prisoner exchange, but they have yet to be fulfilled after a series of reported Houthi violations.
“Mr Griffiths will be in Sanaa for one night to hold talks with Houthi officials on issues such as the prisoner exchange and the truce deal in Hodeidah,” a UN source told The National.
Mr Griffiths is expected to travel from Sanaa to Riyadh to meet representatives of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, although the UN did not confirm the visit.
The UN envoy's visit to Sanaa, the second this month, comes days after a convoy of the head of the UN monitoring team in Hodeidah, retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, came under fire.
Government forces said the attack on Thursday was carried out by Houthi rebels, in what that they described as a major violation to the ceasefire.
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al Iryani said on Sunday that the attack was an attempt to sabotage the Sweden agreements.
The rebels had failed to withdraw their forces from Hodeidah and its ports, Mr Al Eryani said, more than a month after the Hodeidah truce went into effect.
Hodeidah is the entry point for about 70 per cent of Yemen’s food and aid shipments, but most of it is being stolen by the rebels, UN and government officials say. About 20 million Yemenis — two-thirds of the population — are dependent on humanitarian aid after nearly four years of war, according to the UN.
Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik said his government remained committed to fulfilling the Stockholm agreements.
“We praise the efforts of the UN to ensure the ceasefire holds in Hodeidah and will do everything in our power to ensure it is fully implemented,” he said.
The UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, said the truce was key to resolving the conflict in Yemen.
"The political process in Yemen is an integrated one, no further steps can be taken without ensuring the full implementation of Sweden agreement," Dr Gargash said at a meeting with the Swedish envoy to Yemen and Libya, Peter Semneby.
He called for international pressure on the Houthis to comply with deal and withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and Ras Issa, as well as from the city, state news agency Wam reported.
Dr Gargash reiterated the UAE's commitment to ensuring that all of Yemen's ports were open for humanitarian aid and trade.
The UAE is a key member of the Saudi-led military coalition supporting the Yemen government and is also working with Yemeni forces and the United States to neutralise the local branch of Al Qaeda.
A suspected US drone strike on Monday killed one person in car in Bayda, said Mustafa Al Baiydhani, director of the Resistance Media centre in the south-eastern province.
Mr Al Baiydhani told The National the man killed was Saleh Al Qeiysi, a local building contractor in his 60s who was not known to have any terrorist links.
However his son, AbduRabu Al Qeiysi, was classified by the US as a "specially designated global terrorist" over allegations that he helped financed Al Qaeda, Mr Al Baiydhani said.
Updated: January 22, 2019 08:54 AM