Politics, Middle East

UN envoy to leave Yemen following talks with Houthis

Martin Griffiths leaves Sanaa after talks with Houthi leaders fail to break deadlock over ongoing fight for Al-Hudeidah

UN envoy to leave Yemen following talks with Houthis

By Assem Abdel-Salam

SANAA, Yemen

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is set to leave Sanaa on Monday after failing to achieve any breakthroughs in talks with Houthi leaders, according to political observers and UN sources.

Griffiths arrived in Houthi-held Sanaa on Saturday to meet with leaders of the rebel group and convey conditions laid down by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regarding the ongoing fight over Yemen’s coastal Al-Hudeidah province.

Sources close to the discussions in Sanaa told Anadolu Agency that the talks had failed to achieve any tangible breakthroughs.

According to the same sources, the Houthis have refused to hand Al-Hudeidah’s strategic seaport over to UN supervision and have asked for more time to “study” Griffith’s proposals.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash on Sunday said the Houthis had consented to withdraw from Al-Hudeidah, hinting at “good news expected from Sanaa”.

The Houthi leadership, however, immediately denied Gargash’s assertions.

The battle for Al-Hudeidah entered its the sixth day on Monday, with some observers attributing the ongoing fighting to the breakdown of talks. 

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

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies -- who accuse the Houthis of serving as proxies for Shia Iran -- launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The following year, UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait failed to end the destructive conflict.

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

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