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UN envoy holds 'fruitful' talks with Yemen's Houthi leader

Martin Griffiths, center, the UN special envoy for Yemen, gives a press conference in the international airport of the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, prior to his departure on July 4, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations' envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, says he has held "fruitful" talks with the leader of Yemen's Houthi Ansarullah movement, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, amid efforts to end fighting in the Red Sea port of Hudaydah.

"I'm greatly reassured by the messages I have received, which have been positive and constructive," Griffiths said during a press briefing at the Sana’a International Airport on Wednesday after two days of talks in the Yemeni capital.

"I'm especially thankful to Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, whom I met yesterday, for his support and the fruitful discussion we held," Griffiths added.

The official also stated that he would brief the UN Security Council on Thursday on his latest talks in Yemen, where a brutal war by Saudi Arabia and its allies threatens to engulf Hudaydah, the entry point for desperately needed humanitarian aid.

In the coming days, the UN envoy is to meet Yemen's former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. "All parties have not only underscored their strong desire for peace but have also engaged with me on concrete ideas for achieving peace."

On June 29, Griffiths expressed hope that a new round of peace talks between major warring sides of the country could begin next month amid an escalation of fighting in Hudaydah.

The regime in Riyadh and its allies have been engaged in a military operation over the past few weeks against Hudaydah to pressure the Houthis to leave their positions in Sana’a and many other parts of Yemen. However, reports suggest the Saudi-led coalition has achieved little on the ground despite days of airstrikes and assaults from the Red Sea.

The United Arab Emirates recently announced a pause in the operation. However, local Yemeni media said Saudi attacks on various regions in Hudaydah governorate had continued unabated over the past days.

Griffiths earlier met Hadi in the city of Aden to advance the peace talks initiative. He said Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the chief negotiator of the Houthis, had also confirmed Ansarullah's willingness to attend peace talks.

The diplomat said he had managed to prevent a major attack on Hudaydah through his discussions with Hadi and Abdul-Salam.

A key aim of the potential UN-hosted talks on Yemen could be to discuss a proposal for UN forces to take control of Hudaydah amid rising hostilities.

More than 15,000 people have been killed in over three years of a devastating Saudi campaign against Yemen. The war has badly affected Yemen’s infrastructure as hundreds of thousands remain displaced and in dire need of humanitarian aid.

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