Martin Griffiths, the United Nations envoy for Yemen, has visited Iran for the first time amid renewed efforts to end a long-running war that has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
During his two-day visit that began on Sunday, the UN envoy is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and other Iranian officials.
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“Griffiths will consult with Iranian officials on ways to alleviate sufferings of the Yemeni people,” Iranian state news agency IRNA reported.
The visit comes days after US President Joe Biden declared an end to the US’s support for offensive operations in Yemen by a military campaign led by Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran.
The move was welcomed by many Yemenis and aid groups that hope the policy change might add to the momentum for peace talks, as well as by Iran, which called it a “step towards correcting past mistakes”.
When asked whether the US decision will produce the opportunity to end Yemen’s war, Zarif told CNN: “I certainly hope that it does … it is best for the United States to show some tough love to its allies and tell them to stop this atrocity. They will never win in Yemen.”
Yemen has been roiled by a devastating power struggle since late 2014 when the Houthi rebels captured large swaths of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates assembled a US-backed military coalition in an attempt to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
What Saudi leaders thought would be a quick military intervention has turned into a protracted and ruinous conflict that caused the spread of disease, ravaged much of the impoverished country’s infrastructure and left some 80 percent of the population in need of aid.
Both sides have faced accusations of war crimes during the fighting that has killed tens of thousands of people.
Saudi Arabia has long accused Iran of supplying the Houthis with military aid. Iran denies the allegation, saying it only supports the rebels diplomatically and politically.
Griffiths’s trip is part of diplomatic efforts to support a negotiated political solution to the conflict that meets the aspirations of the Yemeni people, his office said in a statement.
“The special envoy’s immediate priority is to support agreement between the parties to the conflict on a nationwide ceasefire, urgent humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process,” it added.
Griffiths’s spokeswoman Ismini Palla said the visit was planned long before Biden’s announcement, and that it comes at a time when the envoy is trying to bring together more diplomatic, regional and international support to his efforts to end the war.
Reversing one of former US President Donald Trump’s most criticised last-minute decisions, Washington also said on Friday it intended to revoke a “terrorist” designation for the Houthis in response to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.