Yemen rivals have ‘strong desire’ for peace, says UN envoy

Cairo: UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said on Wednesday that warring parties in the country have a “strong desire” to restart peace talks.

“I am reassured by the messages I have received, which have been positive and constructive,” he said after a three-day visit to the militant-held capital Sana’a.

“All parties have not only underscored their strong desire for peace, but have also engaged with me on concrete ideas for achieving peace,” he added without giving details.

The former British diplomat also said he had “fruitful” talks with militant leader Abdul Malik Al Houthi.

Griffiths started a visit to Sana’a on Monday, his second in less than a month.

His talks there with Al Houthi leaders were seen as a last-ditch effort to push the Iran-aligned extremists to pull out of the coastal city of Hodeida in western Yemen to avert an all-out assault.

Last week, Griffiths met in Yemen’s southern city of Aden President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi who insisted on Al Houthis’ pullout from Hodeida.

Last month, the Yemeni government forces, supported by a Saudi-led alliance, unleashed a military campaign aimed at expelling Al Houthis from Hodeida and its crucial port.

Griffiths said before departing Sana’a that he would brief Thursday the UN Security Council on results of his talks in Sana’a and Aden.

“I look forward to work with all the parties urgently to find a solution first that will restore security and stability in Hudayda but also create positive conditions for a rapid and urgent restart of political negotiations in the coming days,” his office quoted him as saying.

Yemen’s internationally-recognised government this week linked the restart of peace talks to Al Houthis’ “unconditional and complete” handover of Hodeida that has been under their control for more than three years.

Hodeida is strategically important because of its harbour, which is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, as most of the commercial imports and relief supplies enter through it to the country.

The Arab Coalition accuses Al Houthis of taking advantage of their control of the harbour to obtain weapons from their Iranian patrons as well as confiscate aid intended for Yemenis in order to sustain their war efforts.

Government forces appear poised to resume their campaign for Hodeida after a week-long pause that was aimed at allowing the international mediator time to secure an unconditional pullout from Hodeida.

The Dubai-based television Al Arabiya, citing military sources in Aden, reported that further reinforcements had been sent to boost government loyalists on the West Coast front amid reports that Al Houthis are beefing up their fortifications inside Hodeida.

The Hodeida onslaught is expected to resume this week, the pro-government news portal Adan Al Ghad reported, quoting an unnamed military official.

Al Houthis are believed to have taken advantage of the pause in the coalition offensive on Hodeida to entrench themselves in the embattled city.

Al Houthis have been in control of Hodeida since October 2014, a month after they overran Sana’a in a coup against the internationally-recognised government.

In recent weeks, the government forces, backed by coalition jets, have pressed ahead with a multi-front campaign against Al Houthis in Yemen.

Yemeni forces retook control of strategic positions from Al Houthis in the south-western provinces of Taiz and Lahej

With support of the Arab Coalition, the pro-government forces liberated the strategic Jabal Al Halqum south of Taiz as well as Al Karb, Sbeet, and Rakiza mountains in Tor Al Baha, the Emirati news agency WAM reported.

By recapturing the Karb and Sbeet Mountains, the pro-government forces have taken control of a large number of villages and areas of Tor Al Baha District, north of Lahej, where weapons and munitions were found following the escape of Al Houthis.

The forces are advancing to retake the Jalis Mountain north of Lahej from Al Houthis, WAM reported.

In 2015, the Saudi-led coalition, to which the United Arab Emirates is a main partner, initiated a campaign in Yemen against Al Houthis after the militants advanced on Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of Sana’a.


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