UN envoy discusses revival of Yemen ceasefire with Iranian foreign minister

Martin Griffiths wants to make it easier for aid flights and freight ships to reach desperate Yemenis

Martin Griffiths, United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen meets with Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, in Tehran Iran February 8, 2021. Iran's Foreign Ministry/WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY
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UN peace envoy Martin Griffiths has discussed opening an airport and ports in Yemen with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in pursuit of a ceasefire deal to end the country’s conflict, a UN spokesman said on Monday.

Mr Griffiths spoke with Mr Zarif and other Iranian officials about reopening the long-closed airport in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and easing restrictions at the Red Sea ports in Hodeidah, a vital transit centre for aid into a country on the brink of famine.

“The special envoy’s immediate priority is to support an agreement between the parties to the conflict on a nationwide ceasefire, urgent humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York.

“The visit is part of the special envoy’s diplomatic efforts to support a negotiated political solution to the conflict in Yemen that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people.”

Yemen’s six-year civil war has claimed tens of thousands of lives, left 80 per cent of Yemenis dependent on aid and led to the grounding of flights in Sanaa and restrictions on cargo ships reaching the Hodeidah ports, which are held by the Iran-backed rebels.

Mr Griffiths’ first visit to Tehran came after US President Joe Biden’s announcement of an end to US support for Saudi-led military operations against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

The envoy's two-day trip, which began on Sunday, also comes amid talk of reviving the nuclear deal between Iran and the US, and of efforts to ease tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia and other US allies in the Gulf.

“The special envoy is trying to weave together … more diplomatic, regional and international support to his efforts to end the war in Yemen," Mr Dujarric said.

"I think we've seen a few positive developments in the last few days.

“It's part of Martin’s mandate to engage not only with international but obviously regional actors in an effort to help bring the Yemeni parties together to find a comprehensive, inclusive and sustainable political deal in Yemen for the sake of the Yemeni people.”

He condemned continued Houthi air strikes on Saudi territory, while voicing support for Mr Biden's reversal of an 11th-hour Trump administration decision to classify the Houthis as terrorists, which interrupted aid flow to the country.

Mr Zarif on Sunday told CNN he welcomed the US president's move to end US support in Yemen.

Yemen has been ravaged since late 2014 when the Houthi rebels seized large parts of the impoverished nation, including Sanaa, and removed the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in March 2015 after a request by Mr Hadi's government.

Yemen is the site of what the UN says is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.