AL-MUKALLA: The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, traveled to Houthi-held Sanaa on Sunday in a last-ditch bid to convince the Iran-backed rebels to accept a UN-brokered peace plan and stop their assault on Marib.
In his first visit to the city in a year, Griffiths will meet Houthi officials to discuss proposals including a nationwide cease-fire, the lifting of restrictions on Hodeidah ports and the reopening of Sanaa airport.
On Friday, the UN envoy called on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to make bold concessions to end months of political deadlock and reach a peace agreement.
In the past, the Houthis snubbed Griffiths and the US special envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, and rejected international calls to halt their deadly offensive on the central province of Marib, demanding that the Arab coalition end airstrikes on their forces and arrange unregulated and unchecked flights from and to Sanaa airport as part of the peace initiatives.
The Yemeni government rejected the Houthi demands, saying that heavy aerial bombardments by Arab coalition warplanes have largely foiled Houthi assaults on Marib and that ending the airstrikes would enable the Houthis to advance quickly toward the strategic city.
On Sunday, Yemen’s Foreign Minister, Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, said that the internationally recognized government of Yemen welcomes all initiatives to end the conflict.
He added that the Yemeni government seeks a “sustainable and comprehensive” peace that will bring back stability to the country and end the Houthi coup, according to the official SABA news agency.
Meanwhile, on the ground, dozens of combatants were killed on Sunday in heavy fighting between the Houthis and the Yemeni army backed by allied tribesmen in mountainous areas west of Marib city.
Local military officers said that at least 30 Houthis died when Yemeni government forces pushed back their offensive in Marib’s Al-Kasara.
Loyalists shared videos showing thick smoke billowing from contested areas in Marib after Arab coalition warplanes targeted Houthi locations and military reinforcements.
Thousands of government troops and Houthi fighters have been killed since February when the rebels renewed an offensive on Marib, the Yemen government’s last northern stronghold.
The Yemeni government has accused the Houthis of violating the Stockholm Agreement by turning the Red Sea ports under their control into factories for making and launching booby-trapped boats.
Yemen’s Information Minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, said that the latest Houthi attack in the Red Sea foiled by the Arab coalition shows that the rebels are still threatening international maritime traffic and breaching existing agreements.
“Houthis using Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa ports as bases for launching terrorist attacks and for booby-trapped boats, confirming their disavowal of Sweden Agreement and exploitation to implement Iranian agenda to spread chaos and terrorism in region and threaten international interests,” the Yemeni minister said in a twitter post.
Under the peace deal between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in late 2018, known as the Stockholm Agreement, the Yemeni government agreed to stop a military offensive on the city of Hodeidah in return for the Houthis handing over ports in Hodeidah to neutral forces and depositing revenues into the central bank in the city.