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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

UN envoy to Yemen in Riyadh to discuss framework for peace talks

Martin Griffiths set to meet Yemeni president, vice president and foreign minister

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths leaves after a meeting with the President of the Houthi Revolutionary Committee, in the capital Sanaa. AFP
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths leaves after a meeting with the President of the Houthi Revolutionary Committee, in the capital Sanaa. AFP

The UN envoy to Yemen is expected to meet government officials on Monday to lay the groundwork for peace talks, as international pressure mounts to end the war.

“Mr Griffiths arrived to Riyadh on Sunday evening. He is scheduled to meet Yemeni government officials to discuss the frameworks of the peace talks,” an aide close to the envoy told The National.

Yemen President Abdrabu Mansour Hadi, Vice President Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar and Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani are among those Mr Griffiths is expected to meet in the Saudi capital.

Last week, the UN official was in Houthi-held Sanaa before planned talks in December between the Iranian-backed rebels and pro-government forces. Mr Griffiths said he discussed with the rebels ways in which the UN could maintain peace in the port city of Hodeidah.

"We do not want a repetition of what happened in Geneva, that's why we will announce the date closer to the time expected," his aide said.

A UN-brokered attempt at peace talks in September collapsed after the rebels refused to travel to the Swiss city.

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During his trip to Yemen, Mr Griffiths visited Hodeidah and proposed that the UN oversee the operation of the port – one of the key sticking points in his attempt to bring Yemen's warring parties to the negotiating table in Sweden next month.

His trip to Riyadh came as the Arab Coalition announced it would issue 16 permits for humanitarian ships to enter the port of Hodeidah.

The humanitarian aid was provided by organisations such as Doctors Without Borders and the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, coalition spokesman Turki Al Malki said on Monday.

Col Al Maliki said the rebels were blocking ships from entering the port, which was causing a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the city.

"Houthi militias are hindering humanitarian efforts in Yemen by establishing barricades and planting naval mines," he said.

The Arab Coalition destroyed 36 naval mines planted by the rebels in violation of humanitarian and international law, he said.

"Houthis are also conducting operations from hospitals and mosques around the port," Col Al Maliki said, adding that military operations in Hodeidah were continuing.

Clashes in the city between government forces and the rebels intensified in early November, but subsided after Mr Griffiths announced plans to launch new peace talks.

More than three years of conflict between the rebels and pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition have left eight million Yemeni civilians severely affected by food shortages and plunged the country into economic crisis.