Griffiths meets top Houthi negotiator, no signs of breakthrough
DUBAI – The chief negotiator for Yemen’s Houthi movement said on Thursday he had met UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, after Washington criticised the group for rebuffing the diplomat on a previous visit to the region.
Griffiths’ latest trip coincides with that of US envoy Tim Lenderking, who held talks on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi militias for more than six years.
Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam, who is based in Oman, said on Twitter he and Griffiths had discussed the need to speed up “the humanitarian agreement” by lifting an air and sea blockade, which would “pave the way for wider talks on a permanent ceasefire and a comprehensive political settlement.”
In a statement, Griffiths said the two sides discussed UN plans to reopen Sana’a’s international airport, the lifting of restrictions on Yemen’s port of Hodeida, and a cease-fire to relaunch negotiations.
Griffiths urged Yemen’s warring sides to “seize this opportunity and make a breakthrough towards resolving the conflict.”
Griffiths is leading an international effort to secure an end to the fighting in Yemen, which has caused what the United Nations considers the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, pushing millions of people to the edge of famine.
The Houthis’ main demand has been the lifting of blockades at the country’s main port and the capital’s airport, which are both under Houthi control but restricted by the coalition. The Saudis have said reopening air and sea links would have to be accompanied by a ceasefire deal that the Houthis have not accepted regardless of the humanitarian toll of their stance.
Houthi stalling has blocked any truce or prospects of a long term settlements. There are very few illusions about an imminent breakthrough.
Last week, Lenderking criticised the Houthis for not engaging seriously in stalled efforts to secure a ceasefire. He also urged the coalition to remove restrictions on all Yemeni ports and airports.
The Houthis, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014, are pressing on with an offensive to seize Yemen’s gas-rich Marib region and have kept up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from the capital Sana’a.
Yemen’s war has killed some 130,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project. Tens of thousands of children have died of starvation and disease.
The war is seen as reflecting Iran’s regional ambitions which it pursues in Yemenh through its Houthi proxies.