TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The man trying to broker peace in Yemen said he is hopeful a new round of talks between the warring sides will begin within weeks provided a lull in fighting for a key port city holds.
Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, revealed in an interview he has overcome a hurdle that doomed a previous attempt to bring the different factions together.
He told Sky News he secured an agreement for a delegation of Houthis to attend a meeting in Sweden without fear of being prevented from returning to Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition waging war of aggression against the people of Yemen.
Concern over travel had been a factor stopping the Houthis from taking part in talks in Geneva in September.
The envoy, who is due to address the United Nations Security Council in New York on Friday about the crisis in Yemen, said he believes it is possible to find a political solution to the near-four-year war that has killed thousands of civlians and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Children are in particular danger, malnourished and threatened by disease.
But Griffiths warned that a failure to seize this opportunity would lead to even greater disaster, with the potential of famine, as well as increased regional unrest and a growing threat from terrorist groups in Yemen such as al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
"If famine takes hold in Yemen then the enormity of the humanitarian task to try and keep people alive is mind-boggling," the envoy said, speaking in Amman, where he is based, before he flew to the US.
"We have to act now. We have to go as fast as we can in the other direction to try and stop it."
Griffiths said this week's sudden halt in an offensive by Saudi-led forces to try to recapture the city of Hudaydah was an important condition for a resumption of dialogue.
Peace talks have not taken place in more than two years.
"If we find there are particular battles or if there is an increase in activity – for example in Hudaydah – between now and when we meet in Sweden, then we may not get there," the envoy, a former British diplomat from Wales, said.
"Please can everyone hold their breath and get this conflict into a discussion rather than into violence."
Spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah Movement Mohammad Abdulsalam, however, said a pause in the Saudi airstrikes against Hudaydah is not a submission to international pressure but a bid to buy time and reinforce the military strength for a fresh offensive.
“In every round of aggression against Yemen, the escalation begins and then dies down, mostly without declaring a truce,” Abdulsalam wrote in a tweet on Thursday night.