The ceasefire is vital for millions Yemenis at...
Yemen’s warring parties have agreed to an immediate ceasefire in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah in a potential breakthrough at the end of a week of peace talks in Sweden. International pressure intensified for a ceasefire as the humanitarian crisis worsens in Yemen after more than three years of war.
Antonio Guterres said the agreement included the future deployment of UN-supervised neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. Troops from both sides will withdraw from the entire Hodeidah area within a maximum of 21 days in a process overseen by a UN-chaired committee. A political framework for Yemen will be discussed in a next round of meetings, scheduled for late January.
Guterres said the UN would play a key role when the troops withdrew. “It is obvious the UN will play an important role in the port, probably a monitoring role and the management of that port,” he said. This would help “facilitate the humanitarian flow of goods to the civilian population and it will improve the living conditions for millions of Yemenis”.
The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said the ceasefire was designed to open up the east-west road that connects Hodeidah to the capital, Sana’a “so that the humanitarian pipeline, which is crucial to the people of Yemen, can start delivering aid”.
Agreements have also been reached on a mass prisoner swap and the easing of the siege of the south-western city of Taiz.
The United Nations Security Council on Friday, Dec. 14, endorsed the agreement reached between the Government of Yemen and leaders of the opposition Houthi movement and adopted a resolution and “insisted” that all parties fully respect the ceasefire. Further in the resolution, the 15-member Council authorized the Secretary-General to establish and deploy, “for an initial period of 30 days”, an advance monitoring team on the ground, to support and facilitate the immediate implementation of the Stockholm Agreement.
The Security Council expressed “deep regret” at the loss of life and injuries in the conflict, the use of children on the battlefield, and stressed that all those fighting need to ensure that civilians are protected and allowed safe passage. It also called on all warring parties to comply with applicable international law, including humanitarian law to respect and protect medical facilities and personnel allowing them safe transit; protect civilian infrastructure including schools; reliable food distribution networks; processing and storage, and to withdraw any military personnel from civilian buildings and areas.
Western backing for the Saudi-led war has frayed in the face of mass casualties, starvation and, more recently, allegations that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was instrumental in organising the killing of the Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi.
Backing in the US Senate for the for the Saudi war in Yemen is declining rapidly, placing pressure on the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, to urge Washington’s allies to negotiate an end to the conflict.
A joint committee tasked by the UN, which includes members of the government and the Houthi rebels, in charge of monitoring the truce in Hodeidah and its surroundings began its task on December 18. The head of the team, Patrick Cammaert, has visited city of Hodeidah, Red sea port, Sanaa, and Aden. “the Yemen war had been forgotten for years, but that the international community is now adamant about ending it," he said.
The ceasefire, has remained fragile, with both sides accusing each other of violations in Hodeidah province. The Houthis recorded at least 31 violations of the Hudaydah truce by the aggressors. However, an official for the Saudi-led coalition accused the Houthi fighters of 183 violations, saying 10 militants had been killed since the ceasefire went into force. It's unclear if the Saudi-backed government and the Houthis can reach a wider peace agreement despite mounting international pressure to end the war.
The UN monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of Hodeidah port and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Sunday that if Yemen's humanitarian situation does not improve, 14 million people will be in need of food aid in 2019, 6 million more than this year.