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UN aid chief calls for end to fighting in Yemen

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UN aid chief Mark Lowcock appealed Thursday for a halt to fighting in Yemen amid intense diplomacy to end a war that has pushed millions to the brink of famine.

“I’d like to see a cessation of hostilities, especially around the key infrastructure, especially around Hodeida,” Lowcock told reporters after arriving in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.

Under heavy international pressure, Saudi-backed pro-government forces have largely suspended a five-month offensive on the insurgent-held port city of Hodeida, a key entry point for imports and aid.

UN agencies say 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation and the closure of the port would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis gripping the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country.

“I have come because I am very concerned about the humanitarian situation here, which has deteriorated since I was here last,” Lowcock said.

“I’d like to see the environment in which the aid system operates, made easier for the aid agencies.

“I would like to see stronger economic support, more resources injected into the economy, salaries paid, more foreign exchange so that ordinary people have more money to buy the essentials to survive.”

Lowcock will spend three days in Yemen to see first-hand the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.

UN peace envoy Martin Griffiths is hoping to bring the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels to Sweden in the coming days for negotiations on ending the more than three-year conflict.

Lowcock, who last visited Yemen in October 2017, will hold talks with officials in Sanaa and the government-controlled southern city of Aden.

The Yemen conflict, which escalated when a Saudi-led coalition intervened on the government’s side in 2015, has killed nearly 10,000 people and left up to 22 million in need of humanitarian assistance, according to UN figures.

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