UN envoy arrives in Yemen for talks on Hodeida ceasefire

UN envoy for Yemen Diplomat Martin Griffiths, seen in this file photo, landed in rebel-held Sanaa Monday for talks.

SANAA — The UN envoy for Yemen landed in rebel-held Sanaa Monday for talks aimed at shoring up a truce between rebels and a government alliance in the port city of Hodeida.

Diplomat Martin Griffiths landed in the capital at around 10:30 a.m. local time (1330 GMT), an official at Sanaa airport told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A UN source confirmed the news, saying Griffiths was in Yemen to “work on the rapid implementation of the Hodeida agreement”.

Griffiths hosted hard-won peace talks between Yemen’s government, allied with a powerful Saudi-led regional military coalition, and Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Sweden last month.

Monday’s visit marks Griffiths’ second trip to Yemen this month. Yemen’s government coalition and rebels agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeida, the Red Sea city seized by the Houthis in 2014 and home to Yemen’s most valuable port.

The Hodeida agreement stipulates the withdrawal and redeployment of rival forces from the city, two clauses that have yet to be fulfilled.

A precarious calm has largely held in the city since a ceasefire agreement came into force on Dec. 18.

The UN said a team tasked with monitoring the truce, led by chief monitor Patrick Cammaert, came under fire in Hodeida on Friday but was unharmed.

Earlier, it was reported that the five demining experts killed in a weekend explosion in Yemen were from South Africa and several European countries, a Saudi-run organization in charge of the project said Monday.

The state-run King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) said two South Africans, a Croatian, a Bosnian and a Kosovan were killed Sunday when a vehicle carrying mines to be destroyed exploded in the central province of Marib.

A British national was injured in the explosion, KSRelief said without naming the casualties.

Yemen is a signatory to the Mine Ban Treaty, an international pact that came into force in 1999 and aims to eliminate land mines and clear up vast tracts of affected land. — AFP