United Nations prepares ground for Yemen peace talks as battles flare

Some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died from hunger, charity finds

A leading charity has said that nearly 85,000 children have died from acute malnutrition since early 2015.

'Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop.

United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in Sanaa on Wednesday to meet with Houthi leaders to discuss convening peace talks in Sweden next month to agree on a framework for peace under a transitional government.

The objective of Griffiths's visit was to encourage the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels and government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition to remain calm ahead of the talks in Stockholm, the source said.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates announced they would each give US$250 million in aid to the war-ravaged country to support more than 10 million people.

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting for neighbouring Djibouti, said residents in Hodeidah say there is no meaningful ceasefire in place as there are still sporadic clashes near the city's outskirts.

Griffiths was also expected to speak with rebel leaders and push them to agree to attend the peace talks in Sweden.

Efforts to launch peace negotiators failed in September when the Houthis did not show up at the talks in Switzerland, saying they needed stronger security guarantees from the worldwide community.

Both sides traded fire in their respective neighborhoods in the city, and major fighting was reported on the road connecting Hodeidah and Sanaa, where the Houthis attacked pro-Saudi forces, trying to reopen the supply lines.

This week, United Nations agencies said as many as 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation if the fighting in Hodeidah does not end.

UN food chief David Beasley visited Hodeidah last week and told reporters in NY on Friday the United Nations was "prepared, if necessary, if all parties desire" to take over the operational capacity of the port.

Griffiths said he hoped to convene the talks in Sweden before the end of this year and that he would visit Sanaa and Hodeidah in the next few days.

Multiple past attempts to hold negotiations have failed.

Yemen's economy is in crisis and three-quarters of its population, or 22 million people, require aid.

The Huthis seized Sanaa in late 2014, when they also took control of Hodeida and its port.

A year later, the coalition intervened as President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile.

In his remarks, Mattis appeared to echo President Donald Trump's statement Tuesday, in which he said the United States' relationship with Saudi Arabia was too important to US interests to be derailed by the murder of Khashoggi, who disappeared last month while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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