The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Mr. Martin Griffiths has met the Houthi militia in a push for new peace talks, as fighting continued Friday around the strategic port city of Hodeidah.
After the Houthi militia delegation refused to attend the negotiations in Geneva last week, the UN Special Envoy traveled to Muscat, capital of Oman, to meet with the militia delegation.
The spokesperson of the Houthi militia group Mohammed Abdulsalam, who is also the head of the Houthi delegation as well as Houthi militia senior leading figure Abdelmalak Al-Ajri discussed the reasons for their absence from Geneva with the United Nations envoy, the rebel-run Saba news agency said.
The first negotiations between Yemen’s warring sides in two years were scheduled to start last Thursday, but a Yemeni government delegation left after the Houthis decided not to attend.
The rebels had accused the UN of failing to guarantee the return of their delegation from Switzerland to the Yemeni capital Sanaa and to secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.
This Thursday’s discussions also covered the “necessary measures” needed for fresh talks set for “as soon as possible,” Saba reported.
Hamid Assem, a member of the Houthi delegation, told AFP on Friday there had been no breakthrough.
“There has not been progress regarding the discussions while we have not received the guarantees,” he said by phone.
Griffiths is also scheduled to visit the Yemeni capital Sanaa, held by the Houthis, and the Arab Coalition fighting to restore the legitimate government in Yemen.
The last talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, led by President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, took place in Kuwait in 2016.
Those negotiations faltered over power-sharing and the rebel withdrawal from key cities including Sanaa.
They collapsed after 108 days and the rebel delegation was subsequently stranded in Oman for three months due to a coalition air blockade.
After the failure of the Geneva talks, deadly clashes resumed around the Houthi-held port city of Hodeidah, a vital entry point for aid.
Sixteen rebels died in a coalition air strike in the far south of the city on Thursday evening, according to military and medical sources in the province.
Three pro-government fighters were killed the same evening when a military vehicle was hit by a shell to the east of Hodeidah city.
Over 60 people have died in fighting around Hodeidah since Wednesday, when Yemeni government forces said they seized two major supply routes into the port city.
The Houthis launched a counter-offensive on Thursday to retake the roads, which link Hodeidah to Sanaa, military sources told AFP.
“Sporadic fighting took place on Friday in various areas around the city,” said a government military source.
The UN said Friday the situation around Hodeidah was “alarming” and threatened aid deliveries.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said it was “extremely concerned about the series of security incidents in Hodeidah city,” saying they affected “sites critical for the humanitarian response in Yemen.”