‘Coastguard’ takes over Hodeida port
Yemen’s Huthis have handed over security of key Red Sea ports to the “coastguard” but much work remains to remove military equipment, the UN said yesterday. The pullback is part of a hardwon truce agreement struck in Sweden in December between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Huthis. But the government has accused the insurgents of merely handing over the ports to their own forces in different uniforms.
The UN said Sunday it had been monitoring the withdrawal of the Huthi rebels from the Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa terminals. A UN team was there on Tuesday to verify the redeployment. Its head, General Michael Lollesgaard, welcomed the handover “of the security of the ports to the coastguard”, according to a UN statement. “There is still a lot of work to be done on the removal of the manifestations, but cooperation has been very good. “UN teams will continue to monitor these initial steps in an impartial and transparent manner.”
Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote on Twitter that they “have completed their commitment in implementing the first phase of redeployment”. Last year’s deal was hailed as a breakthrough that offered the best chance so far of ending the war in Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is fighting on the government’s side. The agreement stipulates a full ceasefire, followed by a withdrawal of rival forces from the city of Hodeida and its surroundings.
But although the violence has largely stopped in Hodeida, there have been intermittent clashes and the promised redeployment of the warring parties away from the front lines has failed to materialise. Lollesgaard said Yemen’s warring parties were continuing to express their committment to the truce deal. “Full implementation of this agreement is critical for returning peace and stability to Yemen, and ensuring effective humanitarian access into the country where million continue to be in need of life-saving assistance,” he said.
The UN Security Council is due to hear a briefing on Hodeida on Wednesday amid increased Gulf tensions following a Huthi-claimed drone attack on two pumping stations on a major pipeline. The attacks were “a response to the aggressors continuing to commit genocide” against the Yemeni people”, Abdulsalam tweeted. The 1,200-kilometre (750- mile) pipeline reportedly hit on Tuesday serves as an alternative for Saudi crude exports if the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf were to be closed.