A fresh round of Yemen peace talks may take place soon in Jordan

Development comes after UN envoy met Houthis before heading for Saudi Arabia to ensure implementation of a recent deal.

A fresh round of talks between Yemen’s warring factions may take place soon in Jordan, according to a senior Houthi official.

The United Nations‘ Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, met Houthi rebels before heading for Riyadh to ensure a recent peace deal reached in Sweden is fully implemented.

Both sides have been accused of violating the ceasefire agreement over Yemen’s port city Hodeidah.

The United Nations has proposed what would be a significant breakthrough in the Yemen peace talks taking place in Sweden.
The United Nations has proposed what would be a significant breakthrough in the Yemen peace talks taking place in Sweden.

It has suggested the flashpoint Yemeni port city of Hodeidah should be brought under the joint UN-supervised control of Houthi rebel fighters and the UN-backed government led by Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, described Hodeidah as the centre of gravity for the war. He said at a press conference in Rimbo – where the talks were in their fifth day – that he hoped to publish “detailed, ambitious and tangible” confidence-building proposals in the next few days, including plans for the future administration of Hodeidah and its port.

The UN has proposed the port, as opposed to the city, should be brought under its supervision, with the Houthis and the Yemen government cooperating with the arrangement.

The Saudi Arabia-backed Yemeni government has been unable so far to force the Houthis from the port through which as much as 80% of aid to Yemen passes. The government also wants Houthis to leave the city, handing security control back to the ministry of interior.

Griffiths said he hoped the talks would agree a package including an end to the Saudi air blockade of Sana’a airport. He would like to see the capital’s airport opened to international flights, humanitarian access in Hodeidha and Yemen’s third city, Taiz, a mass prisoner release programme and economic reforms designed to shore up the Yemeni currency.

“Hope is the currency of a mediator,” said Griffiths, adding that after five days of talk he was still ambitious and was focused on trying to find ways to reduce the fighting.

Yemen: Hodeidah sees ‘worst fighting yet’ despite UN ceasefire calls

Griffiths planned to hold a further round of talks in the new year designed to make progress on a long-term political settlement to end the four-year-long civil war.

The war has pitted Iran-backed Houthi fighters in control of Sana’a and Hodeidha against a UN-recognised government based in Aden and supported by the Saudi air force.

Griffiths said the UN was trying to take the port of Hodeidha out of the war “to reduce the level of fighting, increase humanitarian access, provide for the movement of people, help the process of removing mines”.

Ali Ashall, a Yemeni official and member of the government’s delegation, said the city’s police must be placed under the supervision of the ministry of interior.

He also demanded the management of the port to be placed under the jurisdiction of the ministry of transport. “We call on the Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah and hand over their weapons to the government, Ashall said.

Deputy foreign minister of the Ansar Allah, the Houthi led government, Hussein al-Ezzi, told the Guardian it supported UN supervision of Hodeidha, adding that the military escalation against the port “was based on two false arguments: first, we seize the port’s resources. The second is that the port is used to smuggle weapons.”

He said: “We have accepted that the United Nations play a supervisory role to ensure both that arms are not imported and resources are transferred to the Central Bank of Sana’a with the aim of paying salaries.

“This initiative was rejected, indicating that the aim of the escalation in Hodeidah is to stifle the Yemeni people and force them to surrender, which is impossible and rejected by the majority of Yemeni people.”