U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths visits war-torn Yemen Wednesday to prepare for year-end peace talks as fresh fighting erupted earlier this week in Yemen’s key port of Hodeida.
Griffiths is scheduled to meet with Iran-aligned Houthi officials in the capital of Sanna in an attempt to persuade them and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government to begin negotiations in Sweden by year’s end.
Both sides recently expressed support for Griffiths’ efforts to lay the groundwork for peace talks, but the eruption of violence after a lull raised the possibility they could be derailed.
Yemeni military officials accused the Houthi rebels on Monday of firing in the eastern part of the city. Pro-government forces responded and Saudi-led coalition jets launched airstrikes.
A Yemeni government official accused the Houthis of firing a rocket toward Saudi territory, saying it failed to reach its target and fell into Yemen.
In New York, Britain has circulated a draft resolution to the rest of the U.N. Security Council calling for a cease-fire in Yemen, a halt to attacks on civilian areas, and unhindered access to Hodeida.
The port is under rebel control and is a lifeline for food, fuel, and humanitarian aid to the suffering population.
The Saudis have accused Iran of sending arms to the rebels through the port, a charge it denies.
The Trump administration has joined its Western allies in demanding a cease-fire in Yemen. The United States has stopped providing refueling services to Saudi coalition aircraft that attack Yemen.
Hilal Kashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said a cease-fire will eventually take hold in Yemen, but that each side wants to fire the final shot before it takes effect.
“Usually, before a cease-fire goes into effect, we normally witness an escalation of hostilities,” he said. “And it appears to me that since the fighting continues in [Hodeida] — and the claim that they fired a rocket or a missile into Saudi Arabia that did not reach its target — tells us that the Houthis are keen on telling everybody that the last shot was theirs before the cease-fire.”
The Houthis seized the Yemeni capital of Sanna in 2014, forcing the government to flee to exile in Saudi Arabia.
The group has since relocated to the southern city of Aden.
Saudi-led airsickness aimed at driving out the Houthis have killed thousands and wiped out entire civilian neighborhoods, including hospitals.
The fighting has compounded the misery in Yemen, which is also dealing with mass starvation and a cholera outbreak.
The World Health Organization estimates nearly 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi’s intervened in March 2015. Some human rights groups, however, believe the death toll may be five times higher.
Edward Yeranian in Cairo contributed.
Source: VOA news