'No time to negotiate': UAE calls on Houthis to leave Hodeidah
The United Arab Emirates has demanded that Houthi rebels withdraw "unconditionally" from the port city of Hodeidah as coalition-backed government forces continue their advance.
Speaking at a press conference in Dubai on Monday, Anwar Gargash, the UAE's minister for foreign affairs, said he hoped its operation would pressure the Houthis to leave the city.
The offensive, Gargash said, will "continue unless rebels withdraw unconditionally".
"This is not the time to negotiate"
- Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of state for foreign affairs
He said the Arab coalition, which last week launched an assault to oust the group from the Red Sea port city, has kept the Hodeidah-Sanaa road "open for the Houthi militias to withdraw".
Gargash said he hoped that the operation would be carried out in such a way to avoid civilian casualties.
Speaking after United Nations ceasefire efforts in Yemen appeared to have fizzled out over the weekend, he said the assault aims "to help the UN envoy [Martin Griffiths] in his last chance to convince the Houthis to withdraw unconditionally from the city and avoid any confrontation," he said.
"If this does not happen, be assured we are determined to achieve our targets," he said. "This is not the time to negotiate."
Gargash also accused Iran of using Hodeidah port to smuggle sophisticated arms to the Houthis, including ballistic missiles, scores of which have been fired on Saudi Arabia.
The "Iranian fingerprint is all over these arms," he said.
He also denied that French troops have been helping the Arab coalition to take Hodeidah, but admitted that France has offered to remove mines when it becomes necessary.
A Houthi spokesperson on Sunday said that its forces would not quit Hodeida and would continue fighting until they take "control of entire Yemen".
Griffiths arrived in the Houthi-held Yemeni capital Sanaa on Saturday as a Saudi-led coalition battled to take over Hodeidah in an offensive that the UN says could trigger a famine imperilling millions of lives.
Aid agencies have also raised repeated warnings of the humanitarian disaster unfolding in the port city. Fearing that no access to the port will lead to the suffering of thousands displaced and suffering from the ongoing civil war.
The Red Cross last week also described the battle for Hodeidah as likely to "exacerbate the already catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country".
In a statement released on Twitter, the aid agency raised concerns that "life-saving items" were not being delivered while "fighting is ongoing".