Top Houthi negotiator meets UN envoy after previous snub

 DUBAI (Reuters) - The chief negotiator for Yemen's Houthi movement said on Thursday he had met UN special envoy Martin Griffiths, after Washington criticised the group for rebuffing the diplomat on a previous visit to the region.

Griffiths' latest trip coincides with that of U.S. envoy Tim Lenderking, who held talks on Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, which is leading a military coalition that has been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group for more than six years.

Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam, who is based in Oman, said on Twitter he and Griffiths had discussed the need to speed up "the humanitarian agreement" by lifting an air and sea blockade, which would "pave the way for wider talks on a permanent ceasefire and a comprehensive political settlement".

Griffiths is leading an international effort to secure an end to the fighting in Yemen, which has caused what the United Nations considers the world's biggest humanitarian crisis, pushing millions of people to the edge of famine.

The Houthis' main demand has been the lifting of blockades at the country's main port and the capital's airport, which are both under Houthi control but restricted by the coalition. The Saudis have said reopening air and sea links would have to be accompanied by a ceasefire deal that the Houthis have not accepted.

Last week, Lenderking criticised the Houthis for not engaging seriously in stalled efforts to secure a ceasefire. He also urged the coalition to remove restrictions on all Yemeni ports and airports.

The Houthis, who have controlled most of northern Yemen since 2014, are pressing an offensive to seize Yemen's gas-rich Marib region and have kept up cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted a Saudi-backed government from the capital Sanaa. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.



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