Yemeni government insists on full rebel withdrawal from Hodeidah before talks

Pro-Yemeni government forces deployed military reinforcements, backed by UAE troops, as they moved closer to entering the city of Hodeidah.
Sunday 22/07/2018
Beyond Hodeidah. A Yemeni pro-government fighter looks through binoculars as Saudi-supported forces take over Houthi bases on the front line of Kirsh in south-western Yemen. (AFP)
Beyond Hodeidah. A Yemeni pro-government fighter looks through binoculars as Saudi-supported forces take over Houthi bases on the front line of Kirsh in south-western Yemen. (AFP)

SANA'A - UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been unable to bring the warring political factions closer to a peaceful solution to the more than 3-year conflict, although reports suggest the Houthis may cede control of Hodeidah port if the Arab coalition halts its offensive in the city.

The committee responsible for dealing with proposals from Griffiths compiled draft responses to his suggestions and are to give them to the envoy during his next visit to Riyadh, a source in the internationally recognised Yemeni government told The Arab Weekly.

A report in French media asserted that the Iran-allied Houthi rebels would surrender control of the port of Hodeidah to the United Nations provided the Saudi-led coalition stops its military offensive.

“We told the UN envoy, Martin Griffiths, that we are not rejecting the role of supervision and logistics that the United Nations wants to hold in the port but on the condition that the aggression against Hodeidah stops,” Houthi leader Abdelmalek al-Houthi told Le Figaro in an interview published July 17.

The proposal would have the Houthis give up control of the port, which it has held since 2014, to UN supervisors. However, the Houthis would still control the city.

Sources said the Yemeni government would extend its sovereignty over the Red Sea, Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa as a precondition for stopping military operations and participating in talks. Najeeb Ghallab, Yemen’s deputy information minister, said no solutions would be accepted outside the preconditions.

Pro-Yemeni government forces deployed military reinforcements, backed by UAE troops, as they moved closer to entering the city of Hodeidah. A Facebook post July 19 by the media wing of the pro-Yemeni government Giants Brigade said: “Big reinforcements are being deployed to bring a decisive end to the Hodeidah battle.”

The post said forces were on the outskirts of the coastal cornice road on the south-western edge of the city.

Coalition forces launched the offensive June 12 hoping for a swift operation. However, landmines and snipers slowed progress.

The drive to liberate Hodeidah is being managed by UAE forces, who are working with Emirati-trained Yemeni brigades. Coalition forces have pledged to wrestle control of the port from the Houthi militia. Intelligence reports indicate that the rebels generate up to $40 million a month from Hodeidah, which is suspected of being their main point for receiving weapons and funds from Iran, in violation of a UN ban.

As the United Nations tries to find a political solution, fighting continues beyond Hodeidah. Saudi-led forces have stepped up offensives in the rebel stronghold of Saada.

The coalition intensified air and missile strikes in Saada, where the Yemeni Army claimed success after a recent offensive, media reports said. There have been reports of casualties and damage to residential areas in the Houthi heartland.

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