Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

UK urges Houthis to cut ties with Hezbollah for lasting peace in Yemen

British Foreign Minister says Houthi occupation of Yemen is illegal

The Houthi rebels must cut ties with Lebanese militant group Hezbollah to ensure peace prevails in Yemen, British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said during his visit to the UAE.

The UN brokered a deal in December in Sweden between Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the rebels to withdraw troops around the port city of Hodeidah. They also agreed to a prisoner exchange.

Yemen’s government blames Iran and Hezbollah for hindering the progress.

“Hezbollah has now been proscribed in the UK as a terrorist organisation," Mr Hunt told Sky News Arabia on Sunday night.

"They have a presence in Yemen and we made it clear to the Houthis that influence, that relationship, has to end if there’s going to be a lasting peace."

The agreement in Sweden was intended to pave the way for wider talks to end the four-year war but progress has been slow.

“It’s now been more than 80 days since that agreement and still we haven’t been able to clear Hodeidah of militias as was agreed to in the Stockholm process,” Mr Hunt said.

He urged the government and rebels to stand by the Sweden agreement, calling it “the best chance we’ve had for peace for four years”.

“I spoke to the Houthis and I said if you don’t turn your commitments into action the war will start again,” Mr Hunt said.

He travelled to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden where he met Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani and Houthi officials including Mohammed Abdel Salem in Oman at the start of his three-day visit to the region.

Mr Hunt is the first British Foreign Minister to visit the country since 1996. His trip was to show the UK’s support towards Yemen’s government and for UN efforts to secure peace.

“My message was there needs to be urgency, we need momentum and we need to clear the troops and militia from the port of Hodeidah,” Mr Hunt said.

Hodeidah’s ports are the main lifeline for two thirds of Yemen's population, which is on the brink of famine.

“People recognise that it’s been four terrible years for Yemen, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, so I think there is a willingness to go forward with this process,” Mr Hunt said.

“The Houthi’s occupation of Yemen is not legitimate and we need to return now to a government of national unity.”

The country has been torn apart by the conflict, which started in late 2014 when Houthi rebels, allied with troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, captured much of the country.

Mr Hunt’s comments come as part of a Gulf tour intended to bring Yemen’s two sides together to implement the UN-brokered deal.

During his trip to Abu Dhabi he met Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, before meeting Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and Dr Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of State.

Mr Hunt praised the UAE's declaration of 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, in his second official visit to the country since becoming foreign minister.

"Building greater understanding among communities is a key and welcome part of UAE’s #YearofTolerance," he wrote on Twitter.

Updated: March 5, 2019 03:15 AM

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