HOUTHI rebels have withdrawn from key ports in Yemen, in the most significant step yet to end the four-year war.
Teams from the United Nations monitored the withdrawal from three ports, which concluded on Tuesday. The withdrawal follows the UN-led consultations in Stockholm, in December 2018, between the Yemeni government and rebels (News, 21 December 2018). Fresh UN-sponsored talks between the two sides began again this week, in Jordan.
The key port of Hodeidah, which is essential for the supply of food, aid, and medication to Yemenis, is one of the three ports to be passed into the hands of coastguards, who have taken over the security of the ports.
Hodeidah has been a focus for clashes between the two sides.
The head of the UN Redeployment Co-ordination Committee, Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, said after visiting the ports on Tuesday: “UN teams have been monitoring this redeployment which has been executed, partly as agreed by the Yemeni parties in the concept of phase one.
“There is still a lot of work to be done on the removal of the [military] manifestations, but co-operation has been very good.
“Full implementation of this agreement is critical for returning peace and stability to Yemen, and ensuring effective humanitarian access into the country, where millions continue to be in need of life-saving assistance.”
The Archdeacon in the Gulf, the Ven. Dr Bill Schwartz, said that the withdrawal was a “very encouraging step in the right direction” which should allow many internally displaced people to return home to Hodeidah, reducing pressure in other areas of the war-torn country.
“Let us all pray that this small level of success in trust-building can be extended to other discussions between the warring factions — that this could be a real beginning of a political process to resolve the crisis,” he said.
The next steps in the UN’s implementation of the agreement are expected to include a strengthened UN presence to support the management of Hodeidah, Salif, and Ras Issa, and to strengthen the UN body responsible for monitoring ships attempting to dock in the ports, UNVIM.
The war in Yemen is often described as a proxy war between Saudia Arabia, which backs the government, and Iran, which supports the Saudi rebels.
There has been heightened tension in the region this week after Saudi Arabia said that armed drones struck two oil-pumping stations. Houthi-run Masirah TV said that the group had launched drone attacks on Saudi installations in response to what it called Saudi aggression and a blockade on Yemen.