New UN envoy begins Yemen mission

In order for Griffiths to succeed he must engaged with new players on the ground—analyst

The newly appointed U.N. envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, speaks to reporters upon his arrival at Sanaa airport in Sanaa, Yemen March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Al Mukalla: The newly appointed UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths met on Sunday with leaders of Al Houthi movement and other figures and is said to be planning to meet some members of the General People’s Congress, the slain ousted president’s party.

He said that his mission would begin where his predecessor, Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad, left off.

In his first press conference shortly after landing in Al Houthi-held capital Sana’a on Saturday, the British diplomat said he would hold extensive meetings with all players in Yemen’s confict to reach an agreement that would put an end to more than three years of a raging war.

Local media reports said the UN envoy is scheduled to meet Southern Transitional Council leaders in Aden and local NGOs and activists.

Griffiths is the third UN envoy to Yemen since late 2014 when Al Houthis took over Sana’a in a military coup, forcing the internationally-recognised president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi into fleeing the capital.

His two predecessors, Ould Shaikh Ahmad and Jamal Bin Omar—who sponsored several peace talks in Geneva and Kuwait—failed to broker a deal citing Al Houthis’ stubborn stances and refusal to compromise.

A deal reached by Ould Shaikh Ahmad to end the conflict called on Al Houthis to disarm and withdraw from major cities. However, the Iran-backed militant group backed out of the deal in the final hour.

Before heading to Sana’a, Griffiths met with Yemen’s president, his deputy and the prime minister who fully backed his call for future peace talks.

Hadi told the UN envoy that his stance has not changed in that Al Houthis must comply with UN Security Council 2216 which calls on them to disarm and pull out of main cities, including the capital.

Griffiths also met with Khalid Bahah, a former president of Yemen and a veteran politician from southern Yemen.

In order for Griffiths to succeed where his predecessors failed, he must take into account new players on the ground, a Yemeni analyst speaking to Gulf News said.

Yasser Al Yafae, an Aden-based analyst, said the envoy should engage with those who control the ground.

“The mission is tough and he has to approach all forces that call the shots in Yemen,” he said, in veiled reference to the Transitional Southern Council.

The TSC, an umbrella organisation for main players in Southern Yemen, is a new force that came to the view in recent months when their forces were close to taking control of Aden in January.

He also pointed out that Al Houthis are in a weaker position as they would be negotiating for the first time without their former ally, the General People’s Congress.

GPC members have largely broken off ties with the militant group since they assassinated former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in December.


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