SANAA: Efforts to end Yemen’s devastating war picked up pace on Monday as the government and rebels edged closer to peace talks and Britain led a push at the UN Security Council for an immediate truce.
The moves come ahead of a visit in the next few days to the Arabian Peninsula country by UN envoy Martin Griffiths, who is once again trying to get all sides around the negotiating table.
“The government has informed the UN envoy to Yemen … that it will send a government delegation to the talks with the aim of reaching a political solution,” Yemen’s foreign ministry said, quoted by the official Saba news agency.
Earlier Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi rebels’ Higher Revolutionary Committee and an influential political figure, tweeted that he wanted his group to announce “readiness to suspend and halt all military operations” and stop firing missiles on Saudi Arabia.
Riyadh, which is leading a coalition backing the Yemeni government, also lent its support to new talks.
A UN draft resolution on Yemen presented to the Security Council on Monday calls for an immediate truce in the battleground port city of Hodeida, according to the draft seen by AFP. The text, circulated by Britain to the 14 other council members, sets a two-week deadline for the warring sides to remove all barriers to humanitarian aid.
The proposed resolution would significantly ratchet up the pressure on the Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels to seek a negotiated settlement in Yemen, where millions are on the brink of starvation.
Griffiths welcomed the rebel move towards ending missile strikes, saying he “hopes that all parties continue to exercise restraint to create a conducive environment” for talks.
He is expected to visit the Yemeni capital of Sanaa this week to finalise arrangements for peace talks in Sweden, a date for which has not yet been set.
On Monday, Saudi King Salman told the Shura Council, his country’s top advisory body, that Riyadh also supported a “political solution” and a “comprehensive national dialogue” in Yemen.
The Houthis’ foreign minister, Hisham Sharaf Abdallah, met UN officials late Sunday, and was quoted by the rebels’ news agency as saying that the UN and the international community should “adopt the political path to stop the bloodshed”.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arrived on Monday in Iran for the first time to discuss Tehran’s role in Yemen, meeting with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif. “We are very, very keen to move towards peace in Yemen. That’s our number one priority at the moment,” Hunt told British television after the talks.
The war in Yemen — already one of the world’s most impoverished countries — has left the nation on the edge of mass starvation.