UN envoy in Yemen on rare visit to besieged Taiz

AL-MUKALLA / NEW YORK: The UN envoy in Yemen, Hans Grundberg, visited the besieged city of Taiz in the south of the country on Monday, where he met with the governor of Taiz, leaders of political parties, businessmen, activists and journalists, his office told Arab News.

A long convoy of armored vans and military vehicles was seen crossing into sections controlled by the city government as local security authorities tightened security and closed the streets around the governor’s office, residents said.

Taiz, Yemen’s third largest and most populous city, has seen the bloodiest clashes between Yemeni government forces and the Iranian-backed Houthis since early 2015.

The Houthis, who control the city limits, have besieged the city after failing to take control due to heavy resistance from army troops.

The militia has prohibited people from leaving or entering through checkpoints, obstructed humanitarian assistance to trapped people, and repeatedly bombed loyalist neighborhoods to force surrender.

“Coming … to Taiz for the first time is important,” Grundberg said after his meeting with the governor. “It is a place that encompasses many things that are fundamental to all of Yemen. There is political plurality, an entrepreneurial spirit, cultural and historical wealth, and the strength to face the pain and difficulties that this war has inflicted on its people.

“Taiz also shares the same pains that we see in other parts of Yemen, (where) it is civilians who bear the brunt of this conflict.

“Here we have also seen children killed or maimed, and most recently in the deplorable attack on October 30 that claimed the lives of three children. And in this sense I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of these children ”.

The local government and military officials urged Grundberg to use his influence to pressure the Houthis to lift the siege, end attacks on residential areas and the use of landmines, and stop the recruitment of children.

Our demands are to break the siege, end the killing of children, civilians and women, and stop the attacks on hospitals and infrastructure in Taiz, ”Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army officer in Taiz, told Arab News. over the phone, noting that Taiz residents feel that UN officials have “ignored their suffering.”

He said: “We want the UN to be fair and treat us like the Houthis. UN officials visit Houthi militias that plant landmines and even give them cars and humanitarian assistance that fuel their military activities.

On Sunday, Grundberg met with Yemen’s prime minister and foreign minister in Aden to discuss peace efforts.

“He explored the possibilities of de-escalation in Yemen, summarized his discussions in the region and shared his concerns about the impact of the military operations in Marib,” the envoy’s office said on Twitter.

Grundberg is now trying to convince warring factions to immediately establish a nationwide truce, which would include ending the Houthi attacks on Marib and lifting restrictions on the Sanaa airport and Hodeidah seaport.

In the same vein, the United States’ special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, landed in Aden on Monday, where he discussed with the Yemeni prime minister and the Yemeni foreign minister the efforts to end the war, the Houthi offensive. in Marib, the Riyadh Agreement and the Yemeni government measures to safeguard. the economy, the state news agency SABA reported.

Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak tweeted that he discussed in a separate meeting with the US delegation the impacts of the Houthi military operations in Marib and peace activities to end the war. “I expressed our appreciation to the United States for its continued support,” he said.

Meanwhile, on the ground, a local military official told Arab News on Monday that heavy clashes broke out between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis south and west of the central city of Marib.

In the west, dozens of rebel fighters were killed in intense battles that continued from Sunday night to Monday afternoon in Al-Kasara. “The fighting was very fierce. The national army succeeded in thwarting the suicide attacks by the Houthis, ”said the official, who requested anonymity.

In the south, government forces participated in fighting with the Houthis in Al-Amud and the surrounding areas under heavy air cover from Arab coalition fighter jets.

“Working for peace in Yemen is an uphill battle,” Grundberg said. “However, we must never forget that there is always a way to break the cycle of violence. There are always opportunities for peaceful dialogue. And the people of Taiz know it too well.

“Overall, Taiz is the reminder of the possibility of a pluralistic Yemeni state and remains a key part of achieving sustainable peace in Yemen.”

UN envoy in Yemen on rare visit to besieged Taiz