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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 February 2019

UN expected to approve larger Yemen operation

Security Council likely to extend monitoring of Hodeidah ceasefire to six months

A UN Security Council meeting in April at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. AFP
A UN Security Council meeting in April at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. AFP

The UN Security Council is expected on Wednesday to approve an expanded ceasefire monitoring mission in Hodeidah, to try and ensure Yemen's warring parties stick to a plan agreed on last month to de-escalate the country's war.

A draft of the new resolution will be put before the council for a vote, asking that 75 UN observers — up from about the present 20 — be deployed in Hodeidah, the Red Sea port which is the point of entry for most of Yemen's commercial goods and aid supplies, for six months. The monitoring team was initially given a 30-day mandate in December.

Yemen government forces and Iran-backed Houthi rebels agreed to the ceasefire – which does not apply in other regions – during peace talks in Sweden last month, but it has not been fully implemented. A 21-day deadline for doing so passed last week.

The British-drafted resolution will ask UN secretary general Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy his recommended larger operation, which will be known as the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).

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The text requests that member states, particularly neighbouring states, “support the UN as required for the implementation of UNMHA's mandate". Although some Security Council members questioned aspects of the resolution, it is expected to pass, diplomats in New York said.

The fighting has diminished significantly, in and around Hodeidah, in the three weeks following the peace talks, according to the UN, but the Saudi-led Arab military coalition that backs Yemen's government has accused the Houthis of repeated violations.

The UN monitoring operation has also experienced problems. It emerged on Monday that Patrick Cammaert, the former Dutch general leading the UN mission in Hodeidah, in the past seven days had to shuttle between government officials and the Houthis for separate discussions as the rival sides are unwilling to meet face to face. The setback came despite a joint Redeployment Co-ordination Committee being set up to try and build trust between the rivals and ensure that the ceasefire is fully realised through a withdrawal of troops and fighters in Hodeidah. Under the peace proposals, known as the Stockholm Agreement, they are to be replaced by locally agreed on forces and an enhanced role for the UN at Hodeidah, and two other ports to ensure faster delivery of aid. Who will comprise the new forces was a major sticking point during the two meetings of the joint committee that took place under Mr Cammaert's chairmanship before the forum broke down.

The six months asked for in the new resolution would allow the UN and the ex-general, a veteran of numerous UN peacekeeping operations, more time for the stumbling Hodeidah ceasefire to take root.

The Security Council has 15 members. A resolution needs nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the permanent members — Britain, the US, Russia, France and China — to pass. In his proposal to the council last month, Mr Guterres described the planned 75-strong team as “a nimble presence” to monitor compliance of the deal and establish and assess facts and conditions on the ground.

Updated: January 16, 2019 08:25 AM

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