World, Middle East

UN envoy in Sanaa for talks with Yemen rebels

Talks will focus on a proposed plan to halt fighting in Al-Hudaydah

UN envoy in Sanaa for talks with Yemen rebels

By Murat al-Arifi


UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrived in the capital Sanaa on Wednesday for peace talks with Houthi rebels to end the four-year Yemeni conflict.

Griffiths touched down at Sanaa International Airport from Saudi capital Riyadh, an airport official said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media.

The UN envoy's talks with Houthi rebels are expected to focus on a proposed plan to halt fighting in the coastal province of Al-Hudaydah.

Griffiths had met with Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Daghr in Riyadh to listen to the government’s official response to his proposed roadmap.

According to Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, the plan calls for a total Houthi pullout from Al-Hudayday and deployment of Yemeni police forces there and enlisting UN observers to improve works in Al-Hudaydah airport.

Last month, Yemeni government forces -- backed by the Saudi-led military coalition -- waged a wide-ranging operation to retake Al-Hudaydah and its strategic seaport from Houthi rebels.

However, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a member of the Saudi-led coalition, announced a pause in military operations in the port city earlier this month to give room for talks aimed at achieving Houthi pullout from the province.

Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including Sanaa.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The violence has devastated Yemen’s infrastructure, including health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe the situation as “one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times”.

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