Yemen talks to be held at sea

Sides to discuss next steps in implementing agreement in Yemen in UN-organised meeting aboard vessel.
Sunday 03/02/2019
Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert picked up a government delegation at a rendezvous in the Red Sea before returning to the port of Hodeida
Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert picked up a government delegation at a rendezvous in the Red Sea before returning to the port of Hodeida

UNITED NATIONS - The head of the UN mission in Yemen boarded a vessel on Saturday that will be the venue for key talks between the government and Huthi rebels on shoring up a ceasefire.

Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert picked up a government delegation at a rendezvous in the Red Sea before returning to the port of Hodeida to await Huthi envoys who are to arrive on Sunday, a UN statement said.

The sides will discuss the next steps to implement an agreement reached in Sweden in December that calls for a ceasefire in Hodeida and a pullback of forces from the port city.

It is the third meeting of a joint committee on implementing the agreement which has been hailed as a major step toward ending the four-year devastating war in Yemen.

On Sunday, the "parties will then resume joint discussions on the implementation of the redeployment of forces and the facilitation of humanitarian operations, as agreed in the Stockholm Agreement," said a UN statement.

The Saudi-backed government and Huthi rebels have accused each other of violating the ceasefire, while deadlines for the pullback of forces and a prisoner swap have slipped.

UN aid agencies are also trying to gain access to food warehouses in Hodeida that will first require demining teams to clear routes to the storage sites.

The last joint meeting of the truce committee was on January 3.

For nearly four years, Yemen's Iran-backed Huthi rebels have been locked in a war with a regional pro-government alliance led by Riyadh.

The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of starvation.

The port of Hodeida is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen's supplies of imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions.

Up to 75 observers from the UN mission are to be deployed in Hodeida and surrounding ports, but so far only about 20 monitors are on the ground monitoring the ceasefire, according to UN officials.

Cammaert will be replaced in the coming weeks by Danish general Michael Lollesgaard as head of the UN observer mission, which was created by the Security Council last month.