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Yemen president accuses UN envoy Griffiths of siding with Houthis

UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths was accused in a letter from the Yemeni president of undermining the chances of peace. (AFP)
Yemen’s internationally recognized president sent a letter to the UN chief, criticizing his envoy to the country over allegedly siding with Iran-aligned Houthi militia, the president’s office said Friday.

In the letter addressed to Antonio Guterres, Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi accused Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy to Yemen, of undermining chances for peace. Hadi also warns his government would stop dealing with the UN envoy.

“I can no longer tolerate the violations committed by the special envoy, which threaten prospects for a solution,” read the five-page letter, a copy of which was released to reporters Thursday.

It also accuses Griffiths of treating the militia as a "de-facto government and as an equal to the legitimate and elected government” of Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthi rebels. A coalition of Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, allied with Hadi’s government, has been fighting the Houthis since March 2015.

The fighting has killed an estimated 60,000 people and left millions suffering from lack of food and medical care.

Tensions arose between Griffiths and Hadi last week after the UN announced the long-delayed Houthi withdrawal from the flashpoint port city of Hodeidah.

Hadi’s government accused Griffiths at the time of turning a blind eye that the militants had allegedly only handed control of the port to “militia leaders” loyal to them. The “redeployment of Houthis” from Hodeidah was part of a UN-brokered deal concluded in December.

Hadi went on to say that Griffiths’s “poor understanding” of the Yemeni conflict makes him unfit for his post.

While briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in Yemen last week, Griffiths urged the warring sides to maintain the momentum of the Houthi withdrawal from Hodeidah — the country’s lifeline to foreign aid — and to work urgently on a political solution to the devastating conflict.

There were “signs of hope” but “also alarming signs” that could threaten progress, Griffiths said, a reference to continuing clashes in the southern Dhale province.

Later Friday, Houthi leader Mohamed Ali Al-Houthi tweeted that Hadi’s letter to the UN chief was “a miserable attempt to curtail peace.”