UAE backs UN talks between warring Yemen sides: minister

Abu Dhabi (AFP) –


The United Arab Emirates, the main partner in a Saudi-led military coalition intervening in Yemen, said Sunday it backs UN-brokered talks in Geneva between the country's warring sides.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, on Thursday told the Security Council that "a political solution" to end the war in Yemen was "available" and that the warring sides would be invited to talks on September 6 in Geneva.

"We have always been in support of the special envoy, we are going to continue to do so," Emirati Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem al-Hashemi told reporters in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.

UN-brokered negotiations on Yemen broke down in 2016 amid demands for a rebel withdrawal from key cities and power-sharing with the Saudi-backed government.

Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a military campaign to restore Yemen's internationally recognised government to power and push back the Shiite Huthi rebels, who hold the capital Sanaa.

The war in the impoverished country has left nearly 10,000 people dead and unleashed what the UN describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Griffiths told the Security Council that he was "still trying" to negotiate a deal to avoid a full-blown battle for Hodeida, the Red Sea port city that is a key entry point for humanitarian aid.

But he added that resolving the crisis over Hodeida would have to be part of a "comprehensive political settlement" between the rebels and the government.

At least 55 civilians were killed Thursday in a series of explosions that rocked rebel-held Hodeida, the Red Cross said.

Griffiths said he was concerned that "Hodeida could be a flashpoint" that could derail the push for talks in September and urged the council to support de-escalation in the port city.