UN Security Council works to salvage Hodeidah ceasefire

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council said they were “extremely concerned” about the failure to follow through with the Stockholm Agreement.
Sunday 17/03/2019
Buying time. Houthi-allied police troopers stand guard on a street in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, last December. (Reuters)
Buying time. Houthi-allied police troopers stand guard on a street in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, last December. (Reuters)

ADEN, Yemen - The international community and the United Nations are scrambling to salvage the Stockholm Agreement as rebel violations of the ceasefire in Hodeidah continue and the Yemeni government threatens to resume military action.

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council implored Yemen’s warring factions to implement the Stockholm Agreement reached in December.

In a joint statement, the representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China said they were “extremely concerned” about the failure to follow through with the Stockholm Agreement. They pointed out redeploying of forces in ports and Hodeidah, the exchange of prisoners of war and the carrying out the agreement on Taiz had not occurred.

The message urged “both parties to begin implementation of the proposal in good faith without further delay and without seeking to exploit the redeployments by the other side. We call on all sides to ensure the UN monitoring mission can carry out its work safely and without interference.”

The statement came as the situation in Hodeidah significantly deteriorated. Heavy fighting broke out March 9 between forces of Yemen’s internationally recognised government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels south of Hodeidah, resulting in several casualties on the Houthi side and a fire that engulfed warehouses in an industrial complex.

Houthi rebels on March 12 shelled a convoy that was transferring Yemeni government officials who are part of the UN-sponsored redeployment coordination committee.

The Yemeni Information minister, writing on Twitter, said Houthis had violated the Stockholm Agreement, including by shelling with “heavy weapons.” He said silence from the UN envoy and monitoring teams was “unjustified.”

A day following the shelling of the convoy, Al Arabiya television reported that coalition forces shot down a Houthi drone over a pro-government military camp in Hodeidah.

Yemen’s warring factions continued to clash and exchange blame over ceasefire breaches and an agreement on the withdrawal of forces from Hodeidah, signed during UN-sponsored peace talks.

The Houthi militia and the Yemeni government had agreed to a ceasefire in Hodeidah and to exchange prisoners. They were to withdraw their forces from the city and its ports, handing control to UN peace monitors. Several deadlines for the withdrawal passed without action and both sides accused the other of stall tactics.

The truce was one of several confidence-building measures aimed at averting a full-scale offensive on the port, which is a key entry point for food, fuel and aid deliveries.

Compounding matters for the Saudi-led coalition was the US Senate vote to end US support for the coalition. After the vote, the White House issued a statement arguing the measure was flawed and undermined the fight against extremism, adding that US support for the Saudis does not constitute engaging in “hostilities” and the Yemen resolution “seeks to override the president’s determination as commander-in-chief.” It said US President Donald Trump threatened to veto the legislation.

It is not clear how this will affect the United States’ counterterrorism activities against the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which the United Arab Emirates, a primary member of the Saudi-led collation, is a significant participant in.

The internationally recognised government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has yet to comment on the US legislative developments. However, a day after the Senate vote, Hadi met with US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Toler, the state-run SABA news agency reported, without providing details on the meeting.

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