News Analysis: Experts say no seriousness to withdraw warring forces from Yemen's Hodeidah

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-11 21:06:20|Editor: Xiaoxia
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ADEN, Yemen, May 11 (Xinhua) -- Yemeni political experts believe that the Houthi sudden decision to unilaterally withdraw from Hodeidah's key ports will not really happen as both warring sides still prepare for upcoming armed confrontations in Hodeidah.

"Both warring sides are continuing in building fortifications and sending military reinforcements to the frontlines in Hodeidah till this moment. There are no clear signs for de-escalation or real desire for withdrawal," Ali Hadi, Aden-based military observer, told Xinhua.

He said that the Houthi fighters continued in digging underground trenches and planting landmines randomly in and around farms or residential areas, paving the way for another military escalation instead of the unilateral withdrawal.

Adil Al-Shujaa, politics professor from Sanaa university, told Xinhua that the Houthis don't really intend to leave Hodeidah and deliberately offered the unilateral withdrawal from the city's ports just to gain more time.

"The Houthis are manipulating through choosing this unilateral announcement. Avoiding to implement all provisions of the Stockholm Agreement proves that Houthis are not serious with their withdrawal from Hodeidah," Al-Shujaa said.

The United Nations announced on Friday that Yemen's Houthis showed willingness to unilaterally redeploy away from three key ports in the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, almost six months after signing the Stockholm Agreement.

Michael Lollesgaard, chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), said that the Houthis agreed to initially withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa over four days, starting on Saturday and concluding by May 14.

The Houthi offer was welcomed by the RCC as "a first practical step on the ground" since the agreement reached between Yemeni warring parties in Stockholm in December 2018, Lollesgaard noted.

However, earlier in the day, Yemen's internationally-recognized government described the Houthi agreement as "an inaccurate and misleading offer."

The Houthi announcement regarding their unilateral withdrawal from Hodeidah's ports is the third in six months after similar two pullback declarations that faced failure.

Other Yemeni experts said that the Houthi offer is considered as another stunt designed by the group's leaders to deceive the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and mislead the international community.

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is expected to brief the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the implementation of Stockholm Agreement on May 15.

Yahya Abu Hatim, strategic military expert, told Xinhua that Houthis usually precede any UNSC session on Yemen by declaring their acceptance to withdraw from Hodeidah and its key ports in an attempt to avoid any firm stance or decision against their behavior.

"The Houthis want to show that they are implementing the agreement by announcing unilateral withdrawal but all their violations and military actions on the ground indicate that there will be no withdrawal at all," the expert said.

Mohammed al-Ahmadi, political analyst and writer, told Xinhua that the prospects for the Houthi unilateral withdrawal remain doubtful as the Houthis previously used such announcements as a ploy to avoid consequences and started handing over Hodeidah's main port to their fighters.

"Houthi pledges of achieving unilateral withdrawal from Hodeidah's ports will begin to evaporate soon under baseless pretexts like what happened previously," al-Ahmadi said.

However, Mohammed Jawas, strategic military expert based in Aden, believed that Houthis are facing firm stances from the international community and will start pullout as announced by the UN statement in fear of the UNSC threats.

The Iran-allied Houthi rebels control the city while the Saudi-backed government troops have advanced to its southeastern outskirts.

Hodeidah is the key lifeline entry point for Yemen's most food imports and humanitarian aid. The four-year grinding war has pushed over 20 million people to the verge of starvation.

Yemeni warring parties reached a peace deal on Hodeidah in December last year as the first step toward a comprehensive political solution.

Sporadic breaches, however, are daily recorded in Hodeidah as the two sides failed to withdraw their forces in accordance with the agreement reached in the Swedish capital of Stockholm.