JEDDAH: The Iran-backed Houthi militia on Sunday snubbed the new UN special envoy for Yemen only two days after he began work.
The appointment of veteran Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg on Friday had been widely welcomed by the international community, including Saudi Arabia, amid renewed hopes of an end to the seven-year war.
But chief Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam said on Sunday that the group had no plans to meet the new envoy, and such a meeting would be pointless because Grundberg had “nothing in his hands.”
A UN-led initiative for a cease-fire and the lifting of sea and air restrictions imposed by the Arab coalition on Houthi-held areas has stalled. The coalition is seeking a simultaneous deal, but the Houthis are demanding the immediate reopening of Sanaa airport to allow flights to and from Iran, which supplies them with weapons and ammunition.
“There is no use in having any dialogue before airports and ports are opened as a humanitarian necessity and priority,” said Abdulsalam, who is based in Oman.
He said there had been no progress since last month’s visit to Riyadh by the US envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking. Lenderking’s latest trip to the region came as ground battles spread beyond Yemen’s gas-rich Marib province, the government’s last northern stronghold that the Houthis are trying to seize.
Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi on Sunday welcomed Grundberg’s appointment, and called on his government to cooperate with him and facilitate his tasks to enhance peace opportunities.
During a phone call with Grundberg, Yemen’s prime minister renewed his government’s commitment to provide all assistance and support for his mission to succeed.
Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said his “government was committed, under the directives of the president (and) in accordance with the three references, for a locally agreed upon and internationally supported political solution.”
The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognized government from Sanaa in a coup.