Houthis ban U.N. special envoy from Yemen for alleged bias

United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, speaks to reporters upon his arrival at Sanaa airport on a visit to Sanaa, Yemen May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

DUBAI (Reuters) - A top official in Yemen’s armed Houthi movement said on Monday the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen was banned from returning to the country, accusing him of bias, according to the Houthi’s Al Massira TV channel.

Saleh al-Samad, chief of a political council backed by the Houthis who control large areas of Yemen including the capital Sanaa, was also quoted on Twitter as saying that if the U.N. chose another envoy, “he should respect the people’s will”.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam, referring to that tweet, said the U.N.’s envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had abandoned his neutrality and did not respect U.N. resolutions.

Abdul-Salam gave no further details and did not say which U.N. resolutions he was referring to.

The Houthi’s decision comes two weeks after the U.N. urged authorities in Sanaa to investigate a “grave attack” on Ahmed’s convoy as it traveled from the airport to the U.N. compound. The Houthi-run Saba news agency denied any such attack.

Ahmed was in Sanaa for three days of talks aimed at preventing military action at the strategic port of Hodeidah, the entry point for 70 percent of Yemen’s food supplies as well as humanitarian aid.

A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting since March 2015 to end Houthi rule and restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. The alliance has demanded Hodeidah be handed over to international control to spare it an attack.

Reporting by Dubai Newsroom; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Louise Ireland