Hodeida, Yemen: UN envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the battleground Yemeni port city of Hodeida on Friday to press the warring sides to exercise restraint ahead of planned peace talks in December.
Griffiths's visit aims to send a message to the rebels, who control the Red Sea city, and the government forces, who have been attacking it with support from a military coalition, to keep a lid on hostilities in the runup to the talks in Sweden, a UN source told AFP.
According to an AFP correspondent, clashes could be heard in the distance as the envoy visited the lifeline port from which nearly all the country's imports and humanitarian aid pass.
Griffiths, who arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on Wednesday, has met rebel chief Abdulmalik Al Houthi and addressed "what can facilitate new discussions in December", rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said.
Abdelsalam said that included "procedures needed to transport injured and sick for treatment abroad and bring them back", a key sticking point during a previous failed attempt at talks in September.
Both warring sides have expressed support for the envoy's mission to hold discussions.
The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, reiterated Friday that the United Arab Emirates was "committed" to peace talks.
"The best way forward towards a sustainable political process is to support the Sweden talks and the work of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffith without prejudging these negotiations," he said on Twitter.
Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi - whose UN-recognised government was pushed out of Sanaa by the rebels in 2014 - has also said he supports the talks while vowing to "liberate" the city of Hodeida.
Despite a lull in fighting, Hodeida residents reached by telephone said on Friday that Houthi rebels have been bringing in reinforcements.
Dozens of families have fled Hodeida, as the rebels stationed snipers on top of peoples' homes, according to residents and pro-government military officials.
UN agencies say the closure of its port because of fighting or damage could put up to 14 million Yemenis at risk of starvation.
Humanitarian organisations are desperate to see the current peace push translate into a more permanent halt to the four-year war.
The UN's World Food Programme said Friday it had distributed 30,000 food baskets - each containing enough to feed a family of six for one month - in Hodeida city.
"In a city that has been enduring on and off bursts of fighting, these food baskets have an added benefit of helping families to avoid travelling more than necessary to find food, limiting their own security risks," WFP said in a statement.
"Despite the difficult situation, WFP is currently assisting 8 million Yemenis every month with food or food vouchers."
The heads of the UN's humanitarian and children's agencies said the "recent de-escalation in fighting in Hodeida is providing a desperately needed respite to hundreds of thousands of civilians".
The current peace push by Griffiths is the biggest effort in two years.