UN envoy to accompany Houthis from Sanaa to Yemen talks in Sweden

Peace talks are set to resume on December 5

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (C) arrives for a meeting with the President of the Huthi Revolutionary Committee, in the capital Sanaa, on November 24, 2018. In a possible breakthrough despite government scepticism, the envoy said that he discussed with Huthi rebel officials "how the UN could contribute to keeping the peace" in the key port city of Hodeida.
Griffiths met a Yemeni rebel leader in insurgent-held Sanaa Saturday and is to follow up by holding talks with Yemen's government in Riyadh, a UN source said. / AFP

The UN special envoy to Yemen is expected to ensure Houthi attendance at peace talks next week by travelling to Sanaa to personally accompany the rebel delegation, diplomatic sources told The National on Thursday.

Martin Griffiths will travel with the rebels from the Yemeni capital to Sweden early in the week to prevent the collapse of another round of UN-mediated peace talks over Yemen's civil war. The rebels refused to travel to Geneva for talks in organised in September.

“Peace talks are hoping to start on December 5, but the negotiations between the two sides are yet to be finalised,” the diplomatic source said. Logistics for the new round have not been finalised.

The date has not been confirmed by the UN, but hopes are high for long-awaited discussions led by the UN with Houthi rebels and Yemen's internationally recognised government. The two sides are unlikely to meet face to face but Mr Griffiths and his team will shuttle between the delegations.

Mr Griffiths plans to steer the new talks toward specific objectives, such as unifying Yemen's central bank and arranging prisoner swaps, in an effort to encourage engagement in the peace efforts.

"Talks are ongoing between the government and UN officials, nothing has been confirmed," Hamza Al Kamali, a government delegation member who was at the Geneva talks, told The National.

The Yemeni official confirmed that Mr Griffiths will travel to Sanaa to ensure the rebels participate.

Mr Griffthis is currently meeting with Yemeni civil society members in Jordan to discuss the steps leading up to the peace talks, Mr Al Kamali said.

Meanwhile, British Ambassador to Yemen Michael Aron said on Twitter that he was looking forward to seeing the Houthi and government delegations in Stockholm.

“The political solution is the way to move forward," Mr Aron said.

Sweden emerged as the venue the latest attempt to resolve Yemen's war and the resulting humanitarian crisis after signalling its willingness to act as host.

"We are ready and working towards finalizing a date for the negotiations," a Swedish Foreign Ministry spokesman told The National.


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Yemen’s former human rights minister, Hooria Mashour, said there was an international push for talks to resume.

"I think there is an international will to return to the political process in Yemen and to reach peace. This is clear through the meetings of the Quartet [London, Washington, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh] with Mr Griffiths," Ms Mashour told The National.

The former minister said that factors such as security developments in the region and Yemen's deteriorating humanitarian situation have been on the international agenda.

"Perhaps the recent pressures of the US Congress and the aggravation of the humanitarian crisis have had an impact in the need to resolve the crisis in Yemen," she said.

Last week, Mr Griffiths visited the port city of Hodeidah and proposed that the UN oversee its operation – one of the key sticking points in attempts to bring Yemen's warring parties to the negotiating table.

The UN envoy held talks with the Houthis in Sanaa on ways which the UN could maintain peace in the port.

Clashes in the city between government forces and the rebels intensified in early November, but subsided after Mr Griffiths announced plans to launch new peace talks.

More than three years of conflict between the rebels and pro-government forces backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition have left eight million Yemeni civilians severely affected by food shortages and plunged the country into economic crisis.


Yemeni coastguard given control of ports in Hadramout