UAE insists on Houthi pullout from Yemen's flashpoint Hodeida

AFP , Tuesday 26 Jun 2018

Supporters of the Shia Yemeni Houthis demonstrate in the capital Sanaa on 25 June 2018 (Photo: AFP)

The UAE insisted Tuesday that Houthi rebels pull out of Yemen's Red Sea city of Hodeida, a day before a UN envoy holds a new round of crisis talks in the war-torn country.

"We are hopeful and we believe in the political process," said Reem al-Hashimi, the United Arab Emirates minister of state for international cooperation.

But "we cannot imagine a setup where the Houthis can be in the city" of Hodeida.

The UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is due in the southern city of Aden on Wednesday for talks with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose forces have battled for weeks to regain control of Hodeida.

The port has been held by the Iran-backed Houthis since 2014, when the rebels drove the government out of the capital and seized control of territory across northern Yemen and the Red Sea coastline.

On June 13, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and their allies in a pro-government regional coalition launched a major offensive to retake Hodeida port, through which nearly three quarters of Yemen's imports flow.

The coalition alleges the port has been used by the rebels as an entry point for weapons smuggled from Saudi Arabia's arch-foe Iran.

The rebels have said they may be willing to share control of Hodeida's port with the United Nations but say their forces must remain in the docks and the rest of the Red Sea city.

The UAE, which has US-trained troops deployed on the ground in western Yemen, demands the rebels withdraw from both the port and city to avoid a military assault on densely-populated Hodeida.

Griffiths, who held a first round of meetings on the Hodeida crisis in rebel-held Sanaa earlier this month, is holding talks with both sides to "return rapidly to the negotiating table", his office said.

Nearly 10,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Houthis.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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