The UN is set to take a leading role in keeping the peace in Yemen's port city of Hudaida where Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition have been clashing, endangering civilians.

People queue outside a United Nations aid distribution centre in Hudaida, Yemen on November 13, 2018.
People queue outside a United Nations aid distribution centre in Hudaida, Yemen on November 13, 2018. (Reuters)

Yemeni rebels have agreed to hold talks for the United Nations to play a "leading role" in running the lifeline port in embattled Hudaida, UN envoy Martin Griffiths said on Friday.

Griffiths, who started a Yemen peace mission in rebel-held Sanaa on Wednesday, said he has discussed with Houthi rebel officials "how the UN could contribute to keeping the peace" in Hudaida.

"I am here to tell you today that we have agreed that the UN should now pursue actively and urgently detailed negotiations for a leading UN role in the port and more broadly," he told reporters during his first visit to Hudaida.

Griffiths urged Yemen's warring parties to "keep the peace" in the port city.

"The attention of the world is on Hudaida. Leaders from every country have called for us all to keep the peace in Hudaida," he said.

Griffiths was in the country ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden in December between the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and pro-government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition.

Both warring sides have expressed support for the envoy's mission to hold discussions to end a war that has pushed the country to the brink of famine.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen's conflict, though some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

Source: AFP