Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 May 2019

Yemen rivals no longer ‘willing’ to meet jointly over Hodeidah, UN says

Joint committee has not convened in the past week, forcing the UN to shuttle between government and Houthi officials

Yemeni soldiers riding a vehicle patrol during the funeral procession of the head of Yemeni Military Intelligence, Major General Mohammed Tammah. EPA
Yemeni soldiers riding a vehicle patrol during the funeral procession of the head of Yemeni Military Intelligence, Major General Mohammed Tammah. EPA

The former Dutch general tasked by the United Nations with ensuring the Hodeidah ceasefire is implemented had to meet Yemen government officials and Houthi rebels separately in the past week because the rival sides are not willing to be in the same room.

The admission raises doubt over the effectiveness of a joint Redeployment Co-ordination Committee set up to monitor the ceasefire and ensure other commitments agreed at peace talks in Sweden last month are honoured. It also comes after a Houthi drone strike on the Al Anad military base in Lahaj province last Thursday killed seven people, including Yemen’s intelligence chief.

The Hodeidah truce – which is limited to the Red Sea Port city and surrounding areas – is being overseen by a team headed by Patrick Cammaert, a veteran of numerous UN peacekeeping missions. He has been in Yemen since December 22 and twice met rival sides together, but his job appears to have become significantly difficult in recent days.

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Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN secretary general Antonio Guterres, confirmed on Monday that the 21-day timeline for implementing the ceasefire, which elapsed last week, had “slipped” and that Mr Cammaert had not chaired a third joint meeting as planned. He instead “shuttled” between government officials and the Houthis, meeting each side twice in the last week while “seeking a mutually acceptable way forward”.

“The chair continues to encourage the parties to resume the joint meetings in order to finalise the mutually agreed redeployment plan,” Mr Dujarric said, referring to the need for Houthi fighters to withdraw from Hodeidah’s three ports and be replaced by local forces that both sides can agree on.

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert speaks with an official in the port city of Hodeidah. AFP
Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert speaks with an official in the port city of Hodeidah. AFP

The ceasefire was meant to allow easier delivery of aid to Hodeidah but there has been a lack of progress on that, too, although “constructive” talks are continuing, Mr Dujarric said.

Asked about the reasons why the Houthis and government officials were not meeting together as part of the joint committee, Mr Dujarric said that trust had broken down. “If the two sides were able and willing to be in the same room, they would be,” he said.

The comments follow reports that the Houthis have accused Mr Cammaert of having an agenda against them. The UN spokesman denied the claim and said the former general’s only agenda was in trying to ensure the Stockholm agreement is a success.

The lack of a joint meeting will add to concern already expressed by the United States and the UN about last week’s drone attack and other fighting in Yemen.

Updated: January 15, 2019 08:30 AM

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