Top Houthi negotiator says militia will not meet with new UN Yemen envoy

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The chief negotiator for the Iran-backed Houthi milita said on Sunday it would be futile to hold talks with the United Nations new special envoy for Yemen without movement on the group’s key conditions under stalled peace efforts.

The appointment of Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg on Friday as the new UN envoy comes as the United Nations and United States struggle to secure a breakthrough to end the war between the Houthis and Yemen’s internationally-recognized government.

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A UN-led initiative for a ceasefire and the lifting of sea and air restrictions imposed by the coalition on Houthi-held areas has stalled, with the Arab Coalition seeking a simultaneous deal and the Houthis insisting on an end to the blockade first.

“There is no use in having any dialogue before airports and ports are opened as a humanitarian necessity and priority,” Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam, who is based in Oman, tweeted in response to Grundberg’s appointment.

When contacted by Reuters, Abdulsalam said in a text message a meeting would be pointless as Grundberg “has nothing in his hands” and that there was no progress following last month’s visit to Riyadh by the US envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking.

Lenderking’s latest trip to the region came as ground battles spread beyond Yemen’s gas-rich Marib, the government’s last northern stronghold that the Houthis are trying to seize.

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