US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says UN-sponsored peace talks would take place next month. Separately, UN's Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths meets Houthi rebels in capital Sanaa to set ground for talks.

A Yemeni supporter to the Houthi movement, attends a rally marking the birth anniversary of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in the capital Sanaa, on November 20, 2018.
A Yemeni supporter to the Houthi movement, attends a rally marking the birth anniversary of Islam's Prophet Muhammad in the capital Sanaa, on November 20, 2018. (AFP)

Peace talks aimed at ending the war in Yemen have been set for early December in Sweden, between Houthi rebels and the UN-recognised government, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Wednesday.

His remarks came as UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the rebel-held Yemeni capital.

Griffiths, whose last effort to kickstart peace talks collapsed acrimoniously in Switzerland in September, is trying to get Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government back to the negotiating table in Sweden by the end of the year.

Mattis said the Saudis and United Arab Emirates, who have backed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in the brutal three-year-old war, "are fully on board, by the way."

'You've to work with' S Arabia

"It looks like that very, very early in December, up in Sweden, we'll see both the Houthi rebel side and the UN-recognised government, President Hadi's government, will be up there."

"If you want to end the war in Yemen, you have to work with Saudi Arabia," he added, in a time relations between the US and the kingdom have been in heated discussion topic over journalist Jamal Kashoggi, who was killed and dismembered at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul last month.

UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrives at Sanaa airport, Yemen November 21, 2018.
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths arrives at Sanaa airport, Yemen November 21, 2018. (Reuters)

UN envoy in Yemen

The UN's Yemen envoy flew into the rebel-held capital Sanaa to push for renewed peace talks after fierce fighting for the lifeline port of Hudaida which has ramped up fears of a catastrophic famine.

Under heavy Western pressure, the government and its Saudi-led military backers have largely suspended a five-month-old offensive on the Red Sea port city as UN envoy Griffiths spearheads the biggest peace push in two years.

But Hudaida residents reported clashes just hours ahead of Griffiths' arrival, and a devastating all-out assault still looms as the coalition eyes a key victory in its war with Houthi rebels.

Millions at risk of starvation

UN agencies say the closure of Hudaida port due to fighting or damage could put up to 14 million Yemenis at risk of starvation.

The city is virtually the sole gateway to the capital and rebel-held territory and its port is the entry point for the vast majority of food and humanitarian aid into Yemen.

Also on Wednesday, Aid group Save the Children said it believes that 85,000 children under age 5 may have died of severe acute malnutrition since Yemen's civil war began in earnest with the Saudi-led intervention.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies