Published: Mon, May 13, 2019
Global News | By Blake Casey

Yemen`s Houthis begin withdrawal from Hodeidah ports in boost to peace deal

Yemen`s Houthis begin withdrawal from Hodeidah ports in boost to peace deal

Earlier this week the Houthis had unilaterally chose to withdraw its forces from three key ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and Ras-Issa.

The UN has been monitoring the withdrawal from the Red Sea port facilities of Saleef and Ras Isa, which the rebels have held since 2014.

The ceasefire was agreed at UN-brokered talks in Sweden in December but its implementation has been delayed by mistrust between the warring parties.

Activities in the following days are expected to focus on "removal of military manifestations and demining".

Yemen's capital Sanaa is now held by the Iran-backed Houthis, who killed then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh in December 2017.

Hodeida is the main global entry point for 70 percent of imports and humanitarian aid to Yemen, where the four-year civil war has killed an estimated 60,000 people and pushed much of the country to the brink of starvation.

On Friday, the United Nations stated in a statement that Houthi rebels agreed to pull out unilaterally from the ports within four days beginning Saturday.

Under the redeployment pledge, Huthi militants said they also would move out of Yemen's main Red Sea port of Hodeidah by the end of the day on May 14.

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"What happened today is a flagrant show, a group of (Houthi) militiamen left (the city) and they were replaced by others wearing coast guard police uniforms", Information Minister Muammar Al Iryani told media.

According to United Nations diplomats, Houthis had refused to pull back from the ports because they were anxious that the Saudi-led coalition would move in to seize the facilities.

Yemen's Houthi movement called on the United Nations on Saturday to press the Saudi-led coalition to implement the Hodeidah agreement, al-Masirah TV said, citing the movement's political office.

Some officials from the Saudi-backed, internationally recognized Yemeni government dismissed the pullout as a "show", but government negotiator Sadiq Dweid acknowledged it marked the start of implementing the Stockholm accord.

He warned that the Houthi announcement aimed at misleading the worldwide community just days before convening the next session of the UN Security Council to avoid any firm global stance.

Government officials have questioned whether the Houthis are actually withdrawing from the ports or simply handing over to control rebel fighters in disguise.

"We will not accept this theatrical act and we will remain the main party in any agreement", al-Taher said.

The peace deal had stalled since January amid deep mistrust among the parties in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation to the brink of starvation. Coalition forces, now massed four km from Hodeidah port on the edges of the city, are to retreat one km from two flashpoint districts.

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