UAE 'pauses' Hodeida offensive to allow UN peace efforts

UAE 'pauses' Hodeida offensive to allow UN peace efforts
A UAE- backed offensive on Yemen's port city has been put on pause to allow UN diplomatic efforts to take shape, Emirati Minister of State for Foreign Affairs said.
3 min read
01 July, 2018
The UAE and its allies launched a massive military operation to recapture Hodeida [Getty]

The United Arab Emirates on Sunday announced a pause in the offensive it is backing against Houthi rebels in Yemen's port city of Hodeida, to give a chance to UN peace efforts.

"We welcome continuing efforts by UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, to achieve an unconditional Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida city and port," UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Twitter.

"We have paused our campaign to allow enough time for this option to be fully explored. We hope he will succeed."

The announcement comes after Griffiths met with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose troops are battling the Houthi rebels for control of the Red Sea port city, earlier this week.

Hadi demanded a full rebel withdrawal from the city, which has been the target of a weeks-long military offensive by the Yemeni government and its regional allies, led by the UAE on the ground.

Diplomatic sources have said Griffiths has been pushing for the Houthis to cede control of the port to the United Nations and there have been some reports they have agreed.

Griffiths spoke to Houthi militia leaders in Sanaa and the country's Aden-based internationally-recognised government - who are backed by a Saudi-led coalition - and said that both sides could restart talks after a two year hiatus.

The two sides could be brought to the negotiating table within the next few weeks "at the very latest", Griffiths told UN Radio.

He wants the UN Security Council to come up with a plan next week and present it to warring factions.

The Houthis have controlled the western city of Hodeida, and its port, since 2014, when they drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swathes of northern Yemen.

On June 13, the UAE and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, launched a massive military operation - dubbed "Golden Victory" - to drive the rebels out of the Hodeida port.

Hodeida is a vital lifeline for aid to Yemen's population, but is now under siege from a UAE-backed government force who have made capturing the city a priority.Some 70 percent of imports to Yemen, where eight million people face imminent famine, flow through the port.

The Houthis had recently offered to have the United Nations manage Hodeida's port, pending an "overall cease-fire" in the rebel-held city. This has been accepted by both sides, Griffiths said, adding that the UN role would begin "as soon as the parties" formally agree.War broke out in Yemen in September 2014, when Houthi rebels overran the capital Sanaa. 

More than 10,000 people have been killed in the Yemen war since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Houthis, prompting the UN to describe the conflict as the "world's worst humanitarian crisis.”

On Friday, thousands gathered in the capital, Sanaa, to protest the Saudi-led coalition's offensive on Hodeida.