UN tries to shore up support with Yemen envoy under pressure

Martin Griffiths has led efforts for peace but Stockholm agreement is foundering

UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths (C) arrives for a meeting with Huthi-appointed local officials in the embattled Yemeni Red Sea port city of Hodeida on January 29, 2019.  / AFP / ABDO HYDER
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The UN Security Council has issued a strong statement backing special envoy Martin Griffiths after crucial talks in Riyadh about Yemen's stumbling peace process.

The announcement late on Monday came hours after the abrupt and unexplained resignation of Khalid Al Yamani, Yemen's Foreign Minister, after weeks of government criticism of Mr Griffiths, mainly over his handling of the troubled ceasefire in Hodeidah.

Yemen's President, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, and MPs have said that the envoy has been biased in favour of the Houthi rebels.

Government anger has risen since last month when UN officials agreed with the Houthis on a plan for withdrawing troops from Hodeidah, the country's main Red Sea port, without government approval.

The council statement seemed timed to shore up support for Mr Griffiths, commending his efforts since the outline for a ceasefire in Hodeidah and a prisoner swap were agreed to at peace talks in Sweden last December.

“The members of the Security Council underlined their full support for the special envoy of the secretary general  and called on the parties to engage constructively and continuously with the special envoy,” the statement said.

“The members of the Security Council reiterated their call on the parties to continue broader implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, including full adherence to the ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate, as well as the finalisation of arrangements for the prisoner exchange agreement.”

The statement followed talks in the Saudi capital on Monday between Mr Hadi and one of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres's deputies, aimed at avoiding a breakdown in diplomacy.

Those discussions included Mr Griffiths's role and were productive, a UN official said. They centred on “the way forward for implementing the Stockholm agreement and for returning to dialogue to reach a political solution to the wider conflict in Yemen”.

In a letter to Mr Guterres last month, Mr Hadi said Mr Griffiths had a poor understanding of the conflict, which made him unfit for his post.

The ceasefire was limited to Hodeidah and war rages across large parts of the rest of the country.