TEHRAN – The United Nations special envoy for Yemen arrived on his first visit to Iran Sunday for talks on the grinding war in the Arab world’s poorest country, Iranian state TV reported.
Martin Griffiths was set to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and other officials during his two-day visit, his office said. The sessions are part of a broader effort to negotiate a political solution to the nearly six-year conflict pitting Iran-allied Houthi rebels against Yemeni government forces supported by a Saudi-led military coalition.
The trip comes just days after President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will end its support, including some arms sales, of the Saudi-led coalition’s war against the Houthis. The long-awaited move refocused a spotlight on the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and was welcomed by many Yemenis and aid groups that hope the policy change might add to momentum for peace talks.
Griffiths’ “immediate priority” in Tehran is to push a nationwide ceasefire, urgent humanitarian measures and the resumption of the political process, his office added. Those goals repeatedly have proved elusive over years of ruinous war that have left the country deeply divided. The visit was planned long before Biden’s announcement, Griffiths’ spokeswoman Ismini Palla said.
The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and much of the country’s north in 2014. Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and other countries, launched a bombing campaign to expel the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government months later.
Iran, seeing an opportunity to aid a war of attrition against rival Saudi Arabia, has provided the Houthis with military and political support, according to Arab countries, the West and United Nations experts. Tehran long has denied the allegations, despite evidence to the contrary.
The war has killed some 130,000 people, including over 13,000 civilians slain in targeted attacks, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project, and pushed millions to the brink of famine.