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UN envoy arrives in Yemen to shore up ceasefire

Updated January 06, 2019

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SANAA: Martin Griffiths (centre), the UN special envoy for Yemen, descends from his plane upon his arrival at Sanaa international airport on Saturday.—AFP
SANAA: Martin Griffiths (centre), the UN special envoy for Yemen, descends from his plane upon his arrival at Sanaa international airport on Saturday.—AFP

SANAA: The UN envoy for Yemen arrived in the capital Sanaa on Saturday for talks to shore up a cea­sefire in the country’s lifeline port city of Hodei­­da, an AFP photographer said.

Martin Griffiths is sche­duled to hold talks in Sa­­n­aa with Houthi rebel leaders before visiting Saudi ca­­pital Riyadh to meet Ye­­meni government officials.

While in Sanaa he will also meet retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who has been appointed by the UN to head a truce monitoring team.

Houthi sources said Grif­fiths would visit Hodeida city on Sunday (today).

The Red Sea port is the entry point for the majority of imports to Yemen, where more than 22 million people now depend on humanitarian aid to survive.

The UN envoy made no remarks on arrival, but he met five children with chronic diseases who were waiting in ambulances to call for the lifting of the years-old blockade on Sanaa airport.

Houthi rebels say the airport blockade has prevented thousands of Yem­eni patients from travelling abroad for treatment.

Hundreds of Houthi supporters staged a street protest in Hodeida on Friday to urge the United Nations to implement the truce accord.

Griffiths, who played a key role in mediating the December deal, will push warring sides to implement the agreement, officials said.

Under the deal, both the handover of Hodeida port and the redeployment of troops should have been completed within 14 days of the truce taking effect on Dec 18.

That deadline has alrea­­dy lapsed, but a member of the government’s truce monitoring team told AFP there is no agreement yet on who should be responsible for the port.

Differences over details

The truce deal states that the port should be handed over to “the local authorities in accordance with Yemen law”, said the official who requested anonymity. Houthis insist that this refers to the officials currently running the port, who are their allies.

The government says the port should be handed over to officials who ran the facility before the Hou­this captured Hodeida in late 2014, the official said. There are also differences over the redeployment of forces, he said.

Griffiths’ visit comes as the ceasefire in Hodeida is generally holding, althou­­gh there have been intermittent clash­­es, with each side blaming the other.

The UN is hoping to bring the warring sides together later this month, possibly in Kuwait, to follow up on progress made at Decem­ber’s talks in Stock­holm, diplomats have said.

The UN Security Coun­cil is expected to hear a report from Griffiths next week, although no date has been set.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2019