SANAA: UN envoy Martin Griffiths met a Yemeni militia leader in insurgent-held Sanaa on Saturday and is to follow up by holding talks in Riyadh with Yemen’s government in a drive to relaunch a peace process.
In a possible breakthrough despite skepticism on the government side, the envoy has said he has opened a dialogue with Houthi militia officials on “how the UN could contribute to keeping the peace” in the key port city of Hodeida.
A UN source said Griffiths will hold talks on Monday in the Saudi capital, where Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and other officials have taken up residence.
He arrived in the capital on Wednesday ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden in December between the Iran-aligned Shiite Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
No date has yet been set for the negotiations.
The UN-recognized government had not yet received “any information from UN envoy Martin Griffiths about the talks in Sweden and what is to be discussed,” Rajeh Badi, a government spokesman, said on Friday.
“We are certain that the Houthi rebels have not yet taken a strategic and serious decision about peace,” he said.
“They (Houthis) will not let go of their weapons. They would tell us: ‘You’re dreaming if you think we’re going to disarm.’”
Griffiths, however, struck a positive note on Friday during his first visit to Hodeida.
“I am here to tell you today that we have agreed that the UN should now pursue actively and urgently detailed negotiations for a leading UN role in the port,” he said.
Griffiths urged Yemen’s warring parties to “keep the peace” in the rebel-held Red Sea port city, which serves as the entry point of nearly all imports and humanitarian aid into the impoverished country.
Humanitarian organizations are desperate to see the current peace push translate into a more permanent halt to Yemen’s four-year war.
The current peace push is the biggest since 2016. In September, UN-led peace talks faltered when the Houthis refused to travel to Geneva, accusing the world body of failing to guarantee their delegation’s return to Sanaa or secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.
Previous talks broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to yield a deal and left rebel delegates stranded in Oman for three months.
The Arab coalition joined the conflict to bolster Hadi a year after the Houthis captured Sanaa.