UN hopeful for Yemen peace deal, Coalition unlikely to drop demand for Houthi withdrawal

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  • The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said on Friday it would welcome a political deal to end the conflict.
  • However, the coalition indicated it would keep insisting on a complete withdrawal by the Houthis from territory seized since 2014.

GENEVA/RIYADH: The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen said on Friday it would welcome a political deal to end the conflict but indicated it would keep insisting on a complete withdrawal by the Houthis from territory seized since 2014.

The statement from the alliance came after UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths said he hoped to get the warring parties to the negotiating table in the next few weeks to end fighting at the port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for Yemen. The United Nations hopes a breakthrough at Hodeidah could lead to a wider solution to the three-year-old conflict that has killed more than 10,000 and caused the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis, with millions facing starvation and disease.

“I’d like to get the parties together within the next few weeks at the very latest,” Griffiths told UN radio late on Thursday. “I’m hoping that the (UN) Security Council will meet next week and we’ll put a plan before them as to how we’re going to bring the talks back.”

In recent days Griffiths met ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and with Mohammed Abdul-Salam, chief negotiator of the Houthi group, which controls the capital Sanaa.

The alliance of Arab states led by the UAE and Saudi Arabia has been fighting since 2015 to restore Hadi’s government and describes the Houthis as pawns of Iran, accusations the Houthis and Tehran deny.

“Both parties have confirmed to me their willingness to come to the table to restart negotiations. I think it’s long overdue that that should take place,” Griffiths said.

The Houthis have offered to hand over management of Hodeidah port to the United Nations as part of an overall cease-fire in the governorate and Griffiths said he expected further talks with the Houthis in the coming days to agree on timing and other details.

Hadi’s side has accepted the proposal but efforts to avert an all-out attack on the port facilities were continuing, the UN envoy said.

The Houthis have so far not yielded any territory they seized willingly. UN talks on a political deal collapsed in 2016 when Hadi’s government walked out after the Houthis refused to quit Yemen’s three main cities, including Sanaa and Hodeidah.

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