UN chief assures Yemeni president of impartiality

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has assured Yemen’s leader that the world body will remain impartial in efforts to resolve the country’s conflict, rejecting accusations that its envoy was siding with Houthi militias.

The pledge came in a letter from Guterres to President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi who had accused the UN special envoy to Yemen of impartiality.

“I would like to assure you that every effort will be made to maintain the impartial stance that is expected of the United Nations,” while implementing a ceasefire agreement, Guterres said in the letter seen by AFP on Sunday.

In his own letter addressed to Guterres, Hadi accused envoy Martin Griffiths of “providing the Houthi militia with guarantees to stay in Hodeidah and its ports under the umbrella of the UN”.

“I can no longer accept these offences by your special envoy which threaten chances to find a (lasting) solution,” Hadi said.

Hodeidah is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imports and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions of people.

Earlier this month the United Nations supervised the militias’ handing over of the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa to a “coast guard”, but the government said they were in fact Houthi forces in different uniforms.

The pullback is in line with a ceasefire deal for Hodeidah reached in Stockholm in December.

Guterres said that he and Griffiths were prepared “to discuss the legitimate concerns of the government of Yemen referenced in your letter, which we take very seriously.”

Government forces -- backed by a Saudi-led military coalition -- and the Iran-backed Houthi militias have been locked in a four-year war.

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