UN envoy to discuss peace with Yemen’s president in Riyadh

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrives for a meeting with the president of the Huthi Revolutionary Committee in Sanaa on November 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 November 2018

UN envoy to discuss peace with Yemen’s president in Riyadh

  • Humanitarian organizations are desperate to see the current peace push translate into a more permanent halt to four-year war
  • 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.

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.


Iraq’s top cleric Al-Sistani discharged from hospital

Updated 3 min 52 sec ago

Iraq’s top cleric Al-Sistani discharged from hospital

  • Al-Sistani underwent surgery Thursday at the Kafeel hospital in Karbala and was sent home Friday, officials at the hospital said
  • The cleric has been critical in calming tensions in recent months as the country faced crisis after crisis

KARBALA: Iraq’s most powerful cleric was discharged Friday from a hospital following a risky surgery for a fractured bone and returned to his home in southern Iraq, medical officials said.
Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, who turns 90 later this year, fractured a thigh bone when he slipped while bathing before evening prayers Wednesday night. The surgery was considered risky for his age and came amid ongoing tensions in Iraq following the US killing of a top Iranian general and a popular protest movement against the country’s ruling elite.
Al-Sistani’s opinion is often sought during troubled times and news that his surgery was successful prompted a flurry of well-wishes from senior officials.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “My prayers are extended along with the millions of Iraqis to whom he is a source of guidance and inspiration,” in a tweet early Friday.
Al-Sistani underwent surgery Thursday at the Kafeel hospital in Karbala and was sent home Friday, officials at the hospital said. He returned to his home in the holy city of Najaf. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to media.
The cleric has been critical in calming tensions in recent months as the country faced crisis after crisis beginning with mass protests seeking to unseat the political establishment and the recent US drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.