November 23, 2018 / 9:10 AM / 24 days ago

U.N. envoy to Yemen arrives in Red Sea city of Hodeidah - witnesses

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths sepaks during an interview with Reuters in Abu Dhabi, UAE, October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Stephen Kalin

HODEIDAH, Yemen (Reuters) - The U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, arrived on Friday in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, witnesses said.

Hodeidah has become the focus of the war between the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which controls the city, and pro-government forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council last week that Yemen’s parties had given “firm assurances” they were committed to attending peace talks he hopes to convene in Sweden before the end of the year.

The U.N. envoy met with the management of Hodeidah port, an important supply line to the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.

Griffiths visited Sanaa on Thursday where he met with Houthi leaders to discuss their attendance in the next round of consultations, expected in early December.

The Saudi-led, Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore the internationally-recognised government that was ousted from Sanaa in 2014 by the Houthis.

Western countries are pressing for a ceasefire and renewed peace efforts to end the conflict amid international concern that half the population, or some 14 million people, could soon be on the brink of famine.

The last available figure from the United Nations for the death toll from the conflict, seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, was in 2016 and stood at more than 10,000.

An estimated 85,000 children under five may have starved to death in Yemen since 2015, Save the Children said on Thursday.

Reporting by Yemen staff, writing by Maher Chmaytelli; Editing by Robin Pomeroy

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