UN Special Envoy optimistic about ongoing Yemen talks in Riyadh

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Talks between Yemen's UN-recognized government and rival political actors continued in Riyadh  on Tuesday, said UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, a year after the government and the Iran-backed Houthi militia met in Sweden in talks which led to the UN-sponsored Stockholm Agreement.

In a statement on Twitter, he added that he met with Abdulmalik al-Houthi, one of the Houthi's leaders, on Monday. The two reportedly discussed the advancement of the peace process, including implementation of an agreement on prisoners.

Griffiths, who has worked with various different parties in the conflict and monitored the situation in Hodeidah and Taiz, voiced his optimism about the talks in his statement a year after the signing of the Stockholm Agreement.

“While Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the Stockholm Agreement succeeded in adverting further deterioration which would have jeopardized hundreds of thousands of Yemeni lives,” read the statement.

Griffiths told UN News that there has been a shift taking place in Yemen.

“To move from war to peace requires those who lead in war to change the way they look at their constituencies, to change the way they look at the potential to end their hopes for military victory, and to begin actually reaching out to their enemies, and to make them part of the future,” he said.

Although he pointed out some of the shortcomings in the last year, he praised the implementation of a ceasefire in Hodeidah, which had seen some of the most intense fighting since the Iran-backed Houthi militia took the capital Sanaa from the UN-recognized government in 2014.

In addition to the ceasefire in Hodeidah, The Stockholm Agreement also included provisions for creating a humanitarian corridor in the country and facilitating a prisoner swap. It was signed on December 13, 2018, the result of the first talks between the two sides since the failed Kuwait negotiations in 2016.

Saudi Arabia, a member of the Arab Coalition which intervened against the Houthis, has voiced its support for negotiation efforts. Saudi Arabia also facilitated a separate agreement, known as the Riyadh Agreement, between the UN-recognized government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council.

The Riyadh Agreement ”paves the way for a comprehensive peace process in Yemen,” said Griffiths last month.

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