UN urges talks to keep key Red Sea port open to vital deliveries

The UN envoy for Yemen pressed on with negotiations after government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on Hodeida.

The UN envoy for Yemen Wednesday pressed on with negotiations to keep a key Red Sea port open to vital aid deliveries after government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive on Hodeida.

“We are in constant contact with all the parties involved to negotiate arrangements for Hodeida that would address political, humanitarian, security concerns of all concerned parties,” said Martin Griffiths in a statement.

Yemeni forces backed by troops from the United Arab Emirates launched the assault despite UN warnings of a “catastrophic humanitarian impact.” Arab warplanes and warships pounded Houthi fortifications to support ground operations by foreign and Yemeni troops in operation “Golden Victory.”

Ground battles raged near Hodeidah airport and al-Durayhmi, a rural area 10km south of the city, media controlled by the Arab states and their Yemeni allies reported.

The Red Sea port serves as the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen’s imports as the country teeters on the brink of famine.

Griffiths was in Amman following an intense round of shuttle diplomacy this week with Yemen’s Huthi rebels, who control the port, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose forces are backing the Hodeida offensive.

“We continue to use every opportunity to avoid military confrontation in Hodeida,” said Griffiths.

He called on all sides to “exercise restraint and to give peace a chance.”

The UN envoy has been pressing the Huthis to turn over the port to a UN-supervised committee that would allow deliveries of commercial goods and aid to continue to flow through Hodeida.

“We are not giving up,” a Security Council diplomat said. “It’s either that or the Huthis will face an all-out attack.”

Griffiths is also leading UN diplomatic efforts to resume political talks on ending the three-year conflict that has brought Yemen to its knees.

The attack on Hodeida, however, could derail that effort.

Griffiths is scheduled to brief the Security Council on a proposed roadmap for peace talks next Monday.

“The United Nations is determined to move ahead with the political process despite the recent developments,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled Alyemany on Monday that every effort must be made to “avoid a fierce, bloody battle for Hodeida,” a UN spokesman said.

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