Hopes dim for cease-fire in Yemen

June 18 (UPI) — Hopes for a cease-fire dimmed in Yemen after the Saudi-led coalition said it would only accept Houthi rebels’ unconditional withdrawal.

United Arab Emirates Minister of State Anwar Gargash urged international diplomatic corps members in Abu Dhabi “to help U.N. Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in his difficult task to persuade the Houthis to unconditionally withdraw from Hodeida” in a tweet Sunday.

“We are at a turning point, because as long as the Houthis hold Hodeida, they will continue to impede the political process. We firmly believe that the liberation of Hodeida will pull the Houthis back to the negotiating table,” Gargash also tweeted Sunday.

Griffiths has been trying to get Houthi rebels in control of the port of Hodeida in Yemen to hand it over to United Nations and its relief agencies. The port is a distribution spot for about 80 percent of food, water and fuel for 8 million Yemenis in severe need.

The Saudi-led coalition has still refused to accept anything short of unconditional withdrawal even though the Houthis are unlikely to agree to a complete surrender.

“Three years of war is enough,” Gargash tweeted Monday. “It is time for a political process. The Houthis need to be part of that process; but you can’t be 3 percent of the population, yet claim through the barrel of a gun to own 50 percent of the country.”

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Iran-backed Houthis since March 2015 to support the internationally recognized government led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Xinhua reported.

The announcement comes on the heels of the Saudi-led coalition announcing Saturday that it had recaptured the Hodeida International Airport, but Army engineering teams were still de-mining the area.

A Wednesday attack including airstrikes led to the capture of 140 Houthi soldiers and closure of Hudaida’s Red Sea port, which affects food and medicine deliveries to Yemen. The Saudi-led offensive moved within 8 miles of the port city earlier this month in preparation for the large-scale assault.

Houthi rebels captured the port city of Hodeida, which holds about 600,000 people, in late 2014.