UN envoy arrives in Yemen's capital to salvage Hodeidah ceasefire

Martin Griffiths to meet Houthi officials before travelling to Saudi Arabia for talks with the Yemeni government.

    The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is expected to meet with Houthi officials in the capital, Sanaa, to discuss ways to implement a fragile ceasefire in the strategic port city of Hodeidah.

    Griffiths is scheduled to hold talks with Houthi leaders over the truce on Saturday, before meeting Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general, who heads the ceasefire monitoring team in the port city.

    The UN envoy is then expected to travel to Saudi Arabia to meet Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and other senior government officials.

    According to the AFP news agency, Griffiths's visit to Saudi Arabia will attempt to bring the warring sides together later this month, possibly in Kuwait, to follow up on the "progress" made at last month's talks.

    Under that agreement, the first significant breakthrough in peace efforts since the war erupted in 2014, the Houthis were expected to hand over control of the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Isa, to "local authorities in accordance with Yemen law".

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    However, both sides have been in disagreement over the wording of the agreement.

    The government has interpreted it to mean that the port should be handed over to the officials who ran the facility before the Houthis seized Hodeidah city in late 2014.

    Meanwhile, the Houthis insist the deal refers to the officials currently running the port, who are their allies.

    There have also been disagreements over the redeployment of forces.

    Fragile peace

    Under the deal, the Houthis and forces loyal to the Yemeni government were expected to withdraw from Hodeidah city, with a ceasefire expected to come into effect in the entire governorate.

    However, both sides have accused each other of violating the truce, with the sound of missiles and automatic gunfire a near-daily occurrence for the thousands of civilians who still reside in the city.

    The Saudi-led coalition, which supports the Yemeni government, has accused the rebels of carrying out 268 attacks between December 18 and December 30.

    Meanwhile, the Houthis have accused the Saudi-led coalition of shelling several rebel-held areas.

    Yemen has been wracked by violence since 2014 when the Houthis stormed south from their stronghold of Saada and overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa where they toppled Hadi's unpopular government.

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    The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who accuse the Houthis of being Iranian proxies, launched a military coalition that began air attacks against Houthi positions in an attempt to reinstate Hadi.

    With logistical support from the US, the coalition has carried out more than 18,000 raids, with schools, hospitals and mosques frequently targeted.

    According to recent estimates, as many as 85,000 children may have died of hunger since the coalition's intervention.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies