Spotlight: Pullout of warring sides from Yemen's Hodeidah may succeed if deal's key provisions implemented

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-19 03:09:04|Editor: Chengcheng
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by Murad Abdo

ADEN, Yemen, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations announced that Yemen's warring sides agreed on the first phase of a redeployment plan in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah following days of constructive negotiations.

In a statement released late Sunday, the UN declared that representatives of the two-warring sides participated in a series of meetings held by the Redeployment and Coordination Committee (RCC) in the war-torn city of Hodeidah and achieved a significant progress.

The UN statement said that "after lengthy but constructive discussions facilitated by the RCC Chair, the parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces."

The plan for the redeployment of warring forces was created as envisaged by the previous agreement signed between the two sides during the peace talks held in Sweden in December 2018, the UN's statement added.

Danish Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, who is leading the joint RCC in Hodeidah, plans to hold additional meetings with the representatives of the two warring sides within a week in a bid to finalize the agreement on Phase 2, according to the UN.

The first phase of redeployment will include withdrawing forces from Hodeidah's strategic port as well as from Salif and Ras Issa ports within the same Yemeni province.

A number of Yemeni observers commented on the new plan for pulling back the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government forces from Hodeidah, saying that it is a significant progress only if key provisions of the UN-declared plan are implemented.

However, the observers said that there are no real prospects that the new redeployment plan will completely succeed in pulling out the warring forces from Hodeidah.

They said that the UN did not succeed in implementing the previous agreement that mentioned withdrawal of troops from Hodeidah just two weeks after the cease-fire went into force on Dec. 18, but postponed without setting a specific timetable.

"Declaring that parties agreed on a particular plan is easy, but what really concerns us the most is how the terms of the agreement will be implemented," said Ibrahim Ali, an observer and writer.

He said that "many previous agreements were declared but when it came to implementation of the terms agreed upon, nothing was achieved on the ground."

"The new plan about withdrawal of troops from Hodeidah is a good step to reduce the suffering of people there, but it looks like it's going to face the same fate of previous agreements that we did not implement," he added.

Aseel Saqladi, a spokesman for the pro-government Giants Brigades in Hodeidah, voiced pessimism about a prompt implementation of the new UN-led redeployment plan in the city.

He said that "the Houthis did not implement the previous agreement and this new plan will only provide the rebels with sufficient time to transfer their weapons, strengthen their positions, mobilize their forces and plant more landmines in the city's farms."

The spokesman said that "the recent UN-brokered cease-fire in Hodeidah is inhuman and against humanity because it is exploited by the Houthis only to kill people and destroy residential buildings with random shelling."

Other Yemeni military analysts excluded the idea that the two warring sides will really agree to withdraw from Hodeidah without signing a political agreement to halt the war in the whole country.

Mohsen Naji, an Aden-based military analyst, said that "both warring sides consider Hodeidah as a very valuable military asset and seizing it by one of them will be a great victory."

"Who will manage the city of Hodeidah after withdrawal of the troops? What kind of authority will be in charge of the city's ports? It is very difficult to answer these two questions recently," he said.

Earlier in the day, the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths left the rebel-held capital Sanaa after a one-day visit aimed at discussing withdrawal of warring forces and opening humanitarian corridors.

The UN and its humanitarian partners have been warning for several weeks that the Arab country is on the brink of famine, a result of a nearly four-year-old civil war.

Hodeidah is a key port city and home to the Red Sea Mills, housing enough grain to feed millions of people for a month, but presently inaccessible to aid workers, the UN said.

Yemen has been mired in the civil war since late 2014 when the Houthi rebels overtook the capital Sanaa and toppled the government of President Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people and created a serious humanitarian crisis.