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article imageUN envoy expected in Riyadh as calm returns to Yemen's Hodeida

By AFP     Nov 26, 2018 in World

The United Nations' Yemen envoy is expected in Riyadh on Monday as part of efforts to convene December peace talks between Huthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government.

Martin Griffiths' visit comes as fighting eased around the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, a vital lifeline for imports and aid which has been the target of a fierce Saudi-backed government offensive.

Under heavy international pressure, the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led military coalition have largely suspended a five-month offensive against the Red Sea city.

Fighting had intensified in early November as coalition-backed loyalist forces attempted to enter Hodeida, but calm returned after Griffiths arrived in Yemen on Wednesday.

The UN said the envoy, who also visited Hodeida last week to assess the humanitarian situation, is due to hold talks with Yemen's internationally recognised government in Riyadh on Monday.

While the loyalist advance on Hodeida has largely stalled, minor clashes have continued.

Military officials quoted by the state-run Saba news agency on Sunday evening said the loyalists foiled a Huthi "infiltration attempt" into a camp in Hays province, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of Hodeida.

The rebels said they had detonated an explosive device near the eastern entrance of Hodeida, "destroying a (pro-government) military vehicle... killing and wounding soldiers inside", Huthi-run Al-Masirah reported on Monday.

Loyalists did not confirm the attack.

But pro-government military officials told AFP Monday that pro-government forces' operations in the east and south of the Red Sea city had been suspended.

According to UN figures, nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition joined the conflict in 2015 to back up the government after rebels ousted it from swathes of Yemen including Sanaa.

The intervention has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Rights groups fear the actual death toll far exceeds UN estimates.

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