Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 April 2019

Push for UN Security Council resolution on Yemen after Hodeidah ceasefire

Tentative progress in Sweden was followed by Houthi attacks in the Red Sea port overnight

Members of a UN delegation arrive with the Huthi rebel party from peace talks in Sweden at Sanaa airport. AFP
Members of a UN delegation arrive with the Huthi rebel party from peace talks in Sweden at Sanaa airport. AFP

UN diplomats said on Friday that the focus for peace in Yemen must move quickly towards a new Security Council resolution to back up a tentative ceasefire in Hodeidah, where attacks from Houthi rebels overnight highlighted how hard implementing such a plan may be.

Members of the UN Security Council gathered at a behind-closed--doors meeting in New York to be briefed by Martin Griffiths, the special envoy to Yemen, who spoke via a video link from Amman.

Minutes earlier, reporters were told the Security Council would urgently seek to put together a plan that can put into effect the truce – which does not apply elsewhere in Yemen – struck at the conclusion of peace talks in Sweden on Thursday.

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“We see a glimmer of hope,” said Karel van Osterom, the permanent representative of The Netherlands and a member of the Council.

“We have been pushing for progress but the situation on the ground is still one of utter desperation. We feel very strongly we need a resolution as soon as possible.”

Maintaining any ceasefire in Hodeidah likely means more UN involvement but Mr van Osterom said it was “too early” to say if that would involve a Blue Helmet force being deployed.

“Very soon we need to have... someone on the ground to do a recce,” he said, calling for the Security Council resolution to be put together early next week if possible “but certainly before Christmas”.

Mr Griffiths addressed the Council for 20 minutes. The UN's humanitarian aid and relief chief, Mark Lowcock, spoke to members immediately afterwards.

Thursday's ceasefire in Hodeidah was announced at the end of more than a week of talks between Yemen's government and the Houthis, the first face to face peace negotiations in more than three years of war.

Under the plan the UN said armed forces from both sides must withdraw within 21 days at the most. Hodeidah, a Red Sea port where much of the country's imports land, should instead come under control of local forces with the UN playing a role in port operations, according to a document seen at the end of the talks in Rimbo, Sweden. Humanitarian corridors are to be established and monitored by the UN.

However within hours of the talks ending in Rimbo, Houthis attacked a village in southern Hodeidah, forcing dozens of families to leave their homes.

Speaking in New York before Friday's Security Council meeting, Olof Skoog, Sweden's permanent representative to the United Nations, said the peace talks hosted by his country “can be a breakthrough but most important was the ceasefire in Hodeidah” and there was a need for UN monitoring there.

“Our efforts must be to the implementation,” he said. “The Council should now come together to support that agenda.”

Updated: December 14, 2018 09:14 PM

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