Yemen war: UN envoy meets GCC head as fighting rages

Martin Griffiths has been calling for halt to Houthi offensive that threatens to unravel diplomatic gains

Griffiths met earlier today in Riyadh with 
GCC  new Secretary-General, Nayef bin Falah Al-Hajraf to discuss the situation in Yemen. He thanked him for the consistent collaboration and support by the Gulf Cooperation Council. Courtesy UN Special Envoy for Yemen

The UN special envoy for Yemen met the Secretary General of the GCC in Riyadh at the weekend as a military escalation in the country’s north threatens to unravel months of diplomatic mediation.

The internationally recognised Yemeni government, which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition, is fighting to contain a Houthi offensive in Al Jawf province north of rebel-held Sanaa.

The offensive brought the Iranian-backed militia near oil production sites in the central governorate of Marib and surrounded coalition bases in its provincial capital.

The office of UN special envoy Martin Griffiths said he thanked GCC Secretary General Nayef Al Hajraf for the body’s “continuous co-operation and support”.

The GCC said the organisation supported Mr Griffiths’s efforts to end “the difficult conditions that the Yemeni people face”.

Last month, the Houthis seized Hazem, capital of Al Jawf province, which borders Saudi Arabia, and territory in Nehim district, just outside Sanaa.

The coalition responded with increased air strikes.

The fighting since mid-January shattered what Mr Griffiths described on January 16 as “one of the quietest weeks in Yemen since the war began”.

At the weekend, coalition planes raided Houthi targets in the country’s port district of Salif.

Saudi state TV said the targets were factories that make drones and explosive boats that threaten maritime shipping lines in the Red Sea.

Houthi-aligned media confirmed that the coalition carried out strikes on Salif, with no mention of casualties.

Mr Griffiths was in Houthi-controlled territory last week, where he called for an “immediate and unconditional freeze” of hostilities.

“Yemen simply cannot wait,” he said.

De-escalation was the "only way to save Yemen from slipping back into large-scale conflict and another humanitarian tragedy".

The resumption of fighting in Al Jawf has displaced about 70,000 people to Marib, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

In Washington, State Department spokeswomen Morgan Ortagus said the US was “deeply concerned by Houthi advances in Jawf that have caused thousands to flee to Marib”.

“We echo Yemen special envoy Griffiths’s call for de-escalation and talks on a political solution to the Yemen conflict,” Ms Ortagus said.