UN Yemen envoy in Iran as Houthi attacks escalate

Update UN Yemen envoy in Iran as Houthi attacks escalate
Martin Griffiths will meet with Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif as part of the diplomatic efforts to reach a political solution in Yemen that has seen instability since 2011. (File/AFP)
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Updated 08 February 2021

UN Yemen envoy in Iran as Houthi attacks escalate

UN Yemen envoy in Iran as Houthi attacks escalate
  • UN envoy in Tehran for talks on Yemen
  • He wants cease-fire and renewed political process

AL-MUKALLA/ DUBAI: UN’s Yemen envoy visited Iran on Sunday to discuss the war in Yemen after Tehran-backed Houthis intensified missile, drone and ground attacks on government-controlled areas, UN and Yemeni officials have said.

Martin Griffiths landed in Tehran to meet Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other Iranian officials to discuss his peace initiative, known as the Joint Declaration.

The plan is based on putting into place an immediate truce followed by humanitarian measures and later resuming direct peace talks between warring factions, the UN envoy’s office said in a statement seen by Arab News.

“The envoy’s immediate priority is to support an agreement between the parties to the conflict on a nationwide ceasefire, urgent humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process,” the office said.

The envoy’s spokesperson, Ismini Palla, told Arab News that Griffiths had planned to visit Iran “for some time” and that the trip intended to drum up support for his peace deal that aims to reach a political settlement and end the war.

“Griffiths has been in contact with Iranian officials before and the visit has been in the planning for some time. It comes at a time where he is trying to bring together more diplomatic, regional and international support for his efforts in ending the war in Yemen,” Palla said.

Griffiths’ visit to Iran is his first since he became UN envoy to Yemen in 2018. He has regularly traveled between Riyadh, Aden and other regional cities to convince the internationally- recognized government and Houthis to accept his peace plans.

In Aden, the Yemeni government demanded Griffiths ask Iran to halt their financial and military support to Houthis, who have staged deadly strikes against civilian and military targets in Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

“I believe he should call on Iran to adhere to good neighborly relations, and to stop supporting the Houthi militias with money and weapons, including supplying them with shipments of Iranian-made ballistic missiles,” Yemen’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak told Arab News on Sunday, adding that Iran’s support for the Houthis undermined international peace efforts to end the war in Yemen.

Even before the Houthi group seized power by force in late 2014, Yemeni governments accused Iran of smuggling weapons to the group and shoring up their combat capabilities, despite Houthis coming under aggressive aerial bombardment and ground attacks by the Arab coalition and government forces.

 Houthis launched a barrage of missiles, explosive-laden drones and shells at residential areas in Marib and Taiz, and escalated ground attacks on government ground troops in Marib, residents and Yemeni officials said on Sunday.

Three civilians were killed and several more wounded on Sunday when a ballistic missile fired by Houthis ripped through a residential area in the central city of Marib, Yemen’s defense minister said.

Also on Sunday, Yemeni army air defenses shot down an explosive-laden UAV over the city of Marib, causing no human or property damage. The missile and drone attacks triggered explosions, rocking the densely populated city that hosts more than a million internally displaced people, residents told Arab News.

In Marib province, fighting between the Yemeni government and Houthis intensified on the main battlefields in Al-Makhdar and Serwah, leaving dozens of fighters dead and wounded on both sides, military and health sources said on Sunday.

Houthis resumed their assaults on government troops in the two areas in an attempt to break the army’s lines of defense and push towards oil and gas fields in the province.

Dozens of Houthis and loyalists were killed and many more wounded in the fighting that ended when Houthis halted their assaults after failing to make any gains.

“The Houthis sustained heavy human and material losses in their offensive,” a local security officer told Arab News, adding that Houthis “usually fire missiles and drones at residential areas in Marib” after suffering defeats on the battlefields.

Meanwhile, a health source in Marib told Arab News on Sunday that local hospitals received some of the soldiers and tribesmen who were wounded in the fighting.

In the southern city of Taiz, anti-aircraft guns fired by Houthis landed in Al-Marour district, wounding several civilians and setting an oil station ablaze on Sunday, Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher, an army spokesperson, told Arab News.

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