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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 October 2018

Yemen peace talks could resume as government negotiators head to Riyadh

Government military operation to retake Hodeidah is on hold in hopes of an agreement

Yemeni government forces outside Houthi-held Hodeidah. EPA
Yemeni government forces outside Houthi-held Hodeidah. EPA

Yemeni negotiators are set to meet with deputy UN envoy to Yemen Maeen Sharim in Riyadh in the coming week, in a sign direct peace talks between Yemen’s government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels may soon resume.

An official told Reuters that the meeting in Riyadh would “crystallize the discussion topics before going to direct talks with the Houthis.”

Meanwhile more than 800 children, some as young as 11 have been recruited as child soldiers in Yemen, according to a new report released by the UN on Tuesday.

The report, released by the UN Secretary General, details 842 verified cases of underage boys being recruited to fight in the country’s more than three-year long civil war.

At least 76 of the children were documented as having played a role in active combat, while the others were left to "guard checkpoints and government buildings, for patrolling, fetching water and bringing food and equipment to military positions," according to the UN humanitarian affairs agency (OCHA).

The study came as the UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibah affirmed the country’s commitment to protecting children in armed conflict. She told the UN security Council on Monday that “The coalition has sustained efforts and will continue to do more to minimise the impact on children because we believe deeply that every innocent child killed or injured in the conflict is a loss to many.”

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Diplomatic efforts to avert an all-out assault on the Houthi held city of Hodeidah continued on Tuesday, as UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in Aden to meet with President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

The situation in the port city remains perilous, while Yemen’s minister for human rights claimed that Houthi rebels in Hodeidah were looting relief aid to support their military operations.

Speaking in a televised interview on Monday, Dr Mohammed Askar said the Arab Coalition and President Hadi’s government were granting thousands of vessels permission to dock and unload vital supplies at the city’s port.

“The [coalition’s] operations did not affect the lives of residents or cause a crisis in the city, but it is the Houthi militia that is responsible for creating such a crisis because it loots relief supplies and stores it to be used for its own military purposes,” said Dr Askar.

One resident in Hodeidah, speaking anonymously due to the fear of retribution, told The National that any aid entering the city is being handed over to the rebels.

“The only aid we received was in Ramadan when they gave us baskets containing some food supplies, but we have not received anything since then,” the resident said.

“We continuallu see trucks unloading food supplies and sent to stores controlled by the Houthis.”

Pro-government forces backed by the Arab coalition — which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE – launched an offensive on the city on June 13. Though advances have been halted since June 23rd, in an effort to find a diplomatic alternative to a protracted battle over the city and its port.