Hodeidah redeployment stalls
ADEN - Notwithstanding the optimistic assessment from UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to the UN Security Council, conflicting statements from the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels revealed sharp differences regarding the redeployment of forces in Hodeidah.
In a briefing February 19, Griffiths told the UN Security Council the internationally recognised government of Yemen and the Iran-allied Houthis had demonstrated their ability to deliver on commitments made in December by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from the ports.
The redeployment, however, has failed to materialise, with the rebels and the Yemeni government trading blame over delays and multiple violations of the ceasefire.
“The parties have agreed to redeploy from the ports of Saleef and Ras Isa in a first step, followed by a redeployment from Hodeidah port itself and critical parts of the city of Hodeidah associated with humanitarian facilities in step two.” Griffiths told the Security Council via video link from Amman.
“With the beginning... of the implementation of that part of the Hodeidah agreement we now have the opportunity to move from the promise made in Sweden to hope now for Yemen,” Griffiths added.
Members of the government’s Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) accused the Houthis of deceptive tactics and said the rebels were issuing insincere statements regarding Hodeidah intended for media consumption without having reached an agreement on arrangements and who would oversee the ports.
On the same day of Griffiths' briefing, Dubai-based Al Arabiya quoted government representative Askar Zaeel as saying the Houthis had "begun to obstruct and stall" the implementation of the agreement's first phase by demanding new conditions.
Al Arabiya reported Zaeel said the RCC’s government delegation had submitted its agreement to implement the deal as agreed in December and denied Houthi claims the government was obstructing it.
Zaeel was referencing a Facebook post by Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam that claimed the rebels had been the head of the RCC, retired Danish Lieutenant-General Michael Lollesgaard, to hold off on withdrawing from Hodeidah after government representatives brought up issues "outside the agreement."
Abdulsalam said Lollesgaard asked the Houthis to wait to allow him time to persuade the government representatives to proceed.
A source in the Yemeni government said the Houthis were trying neutralise international pressure due to positions on the ground that can’t be reversed
Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Iryani stressed the government’s keenness in implementing the terms agreed to in December.
Iryani labelled the Houthis statements as “political prevarication."
The government team had agreed to sign a "single package" with Houthi representatives, "including the withdrawal from the city, the return of the former local authority to administer it and the restoration of the police and local security forces," an unidentified source told Al-Masdar News.
A Yemeni government source told Al-Masdar that its RCC representatives had given "conditional approval" to the UN redeployment agreement.
"We agreed but the implementation will not take place until the second phase has been also agreed and signed, which relates to local administration, local security, port management and coast guard," the source said.
Despite sporadic pockets of fighting, the Hodeidah truce, which went into effect in mid-December, has largely held.
The United Nations said it hopes the agreement to pullback forces from Hodeidah may allow for more humanitarian aid to reach the war-torn country.