SUN 20 - 1 - 2019
Jun 6, 2018
The Daily Star
Houthis list conditions for Hudaida withdrawal
RIYADH/SANAA: The Iran-backed Houthis have put in place a list of conditions in return for their full withdrawal from the Hudaida port, Yemeni political sources said.
These include paying military and civilian employees in areas controlled by the Houthis, reopening the international airport in Sanaa and allowing commercial traffic to flow through Yemen’s many ports.
“The Houthis have taken a tough stance and have set conditions that would prevent any political solution,” a senior Yemeni government official told AFP.
This followed news that the U.N.’s envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths was in talks with the Houthis to hand over control over Hudaida and had proposed putting the port under U.N. control.
Martin Griffiths, speaking as he wrapped up a three-day visit aimed at reviving talks between Arab-backed loyalist forces and Houthi rebels, also reiterated his concerns for the humanitarian situation in Hudaida.
“Apart from the avoidable humanitarian consequences of such a battle, I am also very concerned about the impact [on] chances of a political settlement of this conflict,” he told reporters in the capital Sanaa.
The envoy, appointed to the post in February, told reporters at Sanaa airport that his talks had been “positive” but warned of the impact of the Hudaida fight on civilians.
Griffiths is due to report to the Security Council on June 18 on his peace efforts.
Multiple rounds of United Nations-brokered talks between Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the country’s government, allied with Saudi Arabia, have failed to find a solution to the Yemen war.
The U.N. recognizes the cabinet of President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi as the legitimate government of Yemen. The Houthis have regularly accused the international body of bias.
In Yemen, Griffiths met with Mahdi al-Mashat, head of the Houthis’ political council, and representatives of the General People’s Congress – a party founded by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, killed in December.
The U.N. has warned that any operation aimed at seizing Hudaida itself would disrupt the entry of aid shipments to Yemen, 70 percent of which flow through the rebel-held port. Hudaida is crucial for aid deliveries as Yemen teeters on the brink of famine.
Saudi Arabia says it is an entry point for weapons to the rebels, which it accuses regional rival Tehran of supplying.
A spokesperson for the Arab-led alliance Tuesday said that government forces were only 9 kilometers from Hudaida.
The battle for Hudaida has killed more than 100 soldiers and insurgents in less than a week, medics and military sources close the government say.
The rebels, who have so far refused to withdraw from the port, claim that 418 loyalist fighters have been killed.
Saudi air defenses also intercepted a ballistic missile that targeted the western city of Yanbu after being fired from rebel-held territory in neighboring Yemen, a spokesman for the Arab-led military coalition said.
The missile fired at the coastal city did not cause any casualties, coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki said in a statement released by the official Saudi Press Agency.
Saudi Arabia earlier this month tested a new siren system for the capital Riyadh and the oil-rich Eastern Province, in a sign of the increasing threat posed by the rebels’ arms.
Saudi Arabia accuses its regional rival Iran of supplying the Houthi rebels with ballistic missiles, a charge Tehran denies.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other allies intervened in Yemen in 2015 to push back the rebels and restore the internationally recognized government to power after the Houthis ousted it from swathes of the country including the capital Sanaa.
The port has remained a key point of contention in Yemen’s war.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since the alliance launched its intervention in Yemen in March 2015, contributing to what the U.N. has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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