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UN envoy meets Yemeni official after accusation of bias

media UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths whom the government accuses of bias towards Huthi rebels UNITED NATIONS/AFP

UN envoy Martin Griffiths met a Yemeni official in Riyadh on Wednesday, in an apparent bid to repair frayed ties after President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi accused him of siding with the country's Huthi rebels.

Griffiths held what he called "productive meetings" with Yemeni Vice President Ali Mohsen in the Saudi capital, according to a UN statement, after Hadi's scathing criticism last month.

"I was encouraged by the openness and flexibility of the government of Yemen and its continued commitment towards achieving peace," Griffiths was quoted as saying in the statement.

Hadi has accused Griffiths of siding with the Huthi rebels and offering them guarantees to stay in western Hodeida province and its ports, telling UN chief Antonio Guterres in a letter last month that he "can no longer accept these offenses" by the envoy.

The president has taken issue with Griffiths over the rebel handover last month of ports to a "coast guard" that the government says is in fact rebel fighters in different uniforms.

Hodeida is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen's imports and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions of people.

The dispute threatened to derail fragile efforts to implement a hard-won Hodeida ceasefire agreed in December in Sweden.

In his meeting with Mohsen, Griffiths "discussed steps needed to move forward with the peace process in Yemen", according to the UN statement.

Successive UN envoys to Yemen have grappled with disagreements from both sides in their efforts to end the devastating war.

British diplomat Griffiths was appointed in February 2018, replacing Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania after the Huthis broke off ties with him.

His predecessor, Jamal Benomar, quit in 2015 after a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen to push back the Iran-aligned Huthis, who continue to hold the capital, Sanaa.

The government is based in Riyadh while the rebels control the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

The conflict, which has killed tens of thousands of people, has had a devastating toll on civilians and triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.

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