Yemeni government, Houthis meet aboard UN ship

The head of the UN mission in Yemen launched talks between the government and the Houthis aboard a boat in the Red Sea on Sunday aimed at shoring up a cease-fire, a government official said.
Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert chaired the meeting aboard a UN vessel docked off the coast of the flashpoint city of Hodeidah after the Houthis refused to hold talks in government-held areas, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The official said the meeting would address the implementation of an agreement reached in Sweden in December that calls for a cease-fire in Hodeidah, a pullback of forces from the port city and the opening of humanitarian corridors.
The Red Sea port is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions in the Arab world’s poorest country.
The UN said in a statement that the parties would resume discussions on the Sweden agreement on Sunday.
It is the third meeting of a joint committee on implementing the deal, which has been hailed as a major step toward ending Yemen’s devastating four-year war.
The government and the Houthis have accused each other of violating the cease-fire, while deadlines for the pullback of forces and a prisoner swap have slipped.

Meanwhile, Pope Francis appealed for the end of Yemen's humanitarian crisis, saying the "cries of these children and their parents rise up" to God.
He made the appeal at the Vatican an hour before his scheduled departure on a three-day trip to the United Arab Emirates.

The conflict has driven Yemen to the brink of famine and caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
Francis urged faithful in St. Peter's Square to join him in prayer, saying "these are hungry children" with no medicine, and "are in danger of dying." Noting that many can't reach food aid areas, he appealed to the involved parties and the international community to urgently ensure that agreements are reached and food distributed.
Francis is expected in the UAE later Sunday, where he will become the first pontiff to visit the Arabian Peninsula.

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