UN envoy in Yemen to push for peace talks

SANAA: The UN Yemen envoy flew into the Ansar Allah-held capital Sanaa on Wednesday to push for fresh peace talks following fierce fighting for the lifeline port of Hodeidah that has ramped up fears of widespread famine. Under heavy Western pressure, the government and its military backers have largely suspended a five-month-old offensive on the Red Sea port city as UN envoy Martin Griffiths makes the biggest peace push in two years. But Hodeidah residents reported clashes just hours ahead of Griffiths’ arrival and a devastating all-out assault still threatens as the coalition eyes a key victory in its war with Ansar Allah fighters.

UN agencies say up to 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation if Hodeidah port is closed by fighting or damage. The city is virtually the sole gateway to the capital and Ansar Allah-held territory, and some 80 per cent of commercial food imports and virtually all UN-supervised humanitarian aid pass through its docks. Griffiths — who has said he wants Yemen’s rivals to meet in Sweden — did not comment to reporters on his arrival at Sanaa airport. He was expected to hold talks with rebel political leaders as he attempts to revive a peace process that collapsed in September when the rebels failed to show up. The Ansar Allah has said repeatedly that they need stronger security guarantees from the international community that they will be given safe passage through the crippling air and sea blockade.