Yemen: UN committee holds first official meeting on Hodeidah ceasefire
General Patrick Cammaert in Hodeidah to host talks between government and Houthis
A UN committee tasked with monitoring a ceasefire in Yemen’s Hodeidah held its first meeting inside the port city on Wednesday.
The team is led by retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who arrived in Hodeidah on Sunday night and will be in charge of monitoring the fragile truce and withdrawal of Houthi and government forces.
“The Yemeni government team was transported by UN armoured vehicles to the city of Hodeidah this morning to meet the head of the redeployment team, General Patrick Cammaert,” a Yemeni government official told The National.
He said the meeting would take place at the United Nations headquarters.
“The general will discuss the ceasefire and the two phases of the withdrawal from the ports of Hodeidah, Ras Issa and Al Saqef,” the official said, asking to remain anonymous.
Mr Cammaert will chair the Redeployment Co-ordination Committee, comprising UN monitors and representatives of the government and the rebels.
According to an official in the Arab coalition, the Houthi rebels will have to withdraw from the three ports by midnight on December 31.
The second stage will be the complete withdrawal of all pro-government forces and rebels from Hodeidah city, to be completed by midnight on January 7, the official told The National.
The historic truce was announced in early December at the end of a week of negotiations in Sweden, the first peace talks between the two sides since 2016.
Hodiedah has been the objective of a government offensive against the rebels since June. The trust is part of a peace push viewed as the only opportunity to end the war.
There have been fears that fighting in the port city could trigger a new humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where the UN estimates that nearly 14 million people could soon be on the brink of famine.
On Tuesday, Houthi leaders announced that they would not hand over Hodeidah’s ports before the end of the year, according to Houthi media outlets.
“The delivery and handover of Hodeidah’s three main ports are not part of the Stockholm agreement,” said the deputy governor of Hodeidah, who is appointed by the militias, Abdul Jabbar Jarmuzi.
Mr Jarmuzi said that Stockholm’s agreement only involves the ceasefire in Hodeidah.
Meanwhile, the ceasefire remains fragile after clashes erupted on Wednesday morning, with both sides accusing each other of violating the agreement.
The Arab Coalition told The National on Tuesday night that 10 pro-government soliders have been killed, and that rebels violated the truce 183 times since the ceasefire went into effect.
“Since the ceasefire commenced on December 17, the Houthis have, with effect from 24 December, committed 183 violations in the Hodeidah Governorate. These have killed 10 Yemeni soldiers and wounded 143,” said a source in the coalition.
"The numerous truce violations by the Houthis prove that their desire for peace is highly questionable,” the source said, adding that international pressure must be exerted on the rebels to abide by the deal.
“The fact of the matter unfortunately is that the Houthis are clearly looking to provoke a response from the Coalition and no one is holding them accountable,” said the source.
The Arab Coalition will not respond to the Houthi’s provocation strategy, the source said, adding that the rebel’s commitment towards the agreement in Stockholm will shortly become evident as General Cammaert commences his work.
“We genuinely hope he succeeds – but if not, we reserve the right to recommence the offensive to liberate the city,” the source said.
Updated: December 26, 2018 04:18 PM