Yemen's rival parties resume meeting on UN-hired ship to discuss stalled forces withdrawal

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-04 00:28:04|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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SANAA, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- Delegations of Yemen's warring parties on Sunday met on a UN-hired ship in the Red Sea to resume discussions over implementation of a stalled troop withdrawal from Hodeidah port city in line with a peace deal reached in Stockholm in December last year, sources from both sides said.

It was the third face-to-face meeting between the representatives of the Saudi-backed government and Iranian-allied Houthi rebels since the formation of the UN-led Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in December last year.

The joint committee, chaired by Patrick Cammaert, a retired Dutch general, was tasked to monitor a cease-fire and troop withdrawal from the port city.

The meeting was held on a ship due to security fears, after the convoy of Cammaert came under fire two weeks ago while he was shuttling between the warring forces in Hodeidah.

The government representatives were picked up by the UN ship at an offshore meeting point in the Red Sea, while the Houthi delegation was picked up from Hodeidah, according to a UN statement on Saturday.

The past two meetings were held earlier last month in the port city, which is under Houthi rebels' control. While the Houthis refused to cross frontlines to meet the government side, the government troops have advanced to the southern and eastern outskirts of the port city.

The security situation was further exacerbated after the government troops, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, launched an operation in June 2018 to retake rebel-held Hodeidah, a strategic port city that had been handling some 70 percent of Yemen's imports of food.

The fighting has spawned the world's worst humanitarian crisis and brought the poorest Arab country to the brink of famine.

On Tuesday, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appointed Michael Anker Lollesgaard of Denmark as the chair of the RCC and head of the UN mission in support of the Hodeidah agreement.

The UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement was the major breakthrough in the four-year devastating civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the impoverished Arab country to the brink of starvation.

Under the truce, the withdrawal from the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa as well as critical parts of the city associated with humanitarian facilities should be completed within two weeks after the cease-fire enters into force, while the full withdrawal should be completed within a maximum period of 21 days.

The cease-fire deal went into force on Dec. 18, 2018, but the withdrawal of the rival forces has yet to be fulfilled because of different interpretations of the Stockholm Agreement over who would control key points of Hodeidah during the partial cease-fire, according to the UN statements.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been leading an Arab military coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to support the internationally-recognized government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthi rebels forced him into exile and seized much of the country's north.

Last week, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash accused Houthi rebels of breaching the cease-fire and hampering the troop withdrawal from Hodeidah, vowing that the Arab coalition could "use more calibrated force to prod Houthi compliance with Stockholm Agreement."

In response, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi highest revolutionary committee, said "Hodeidah is not easy."

"It is either the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement or the hell which is waiting for the invaders and their mercenaries," al-Houthi tweeted.