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Head of UN truce monitoring mission in Yemen to step down

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who arrived in Hodeidah last month, plans to step down in February according to UN diplomats
It was not immediately clear why Cammaert was stepping down (AFP)

The head of a United Nations mission tasked with overseeing a peace deal in Yemen's Hodeidah port city plans to step down next month and will be replaced with a Danish official, UN diplomats have said.

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert arrived in Hodeidah late last month to lead an advance team of monitors observing a ceasefire and redeployment of forces agreed by Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government forces.

Diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters news agency, said the UN plans to replace Cammaert next month with Danish Major General Michael Anker Lollesgaard, who led a UN peacekeeping mission in Mali in 2015 and 2016.

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Lollesgaard - who, like Cammaert, will report to UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths - will oversee boosting the monitoring mission to up to 75 observers, a move that was authorised by the Security Council earlier this month.

It was not immediately clear why Cammaert was stepping down.

"As far as we know he is only resigning because he said he wouldn't do it very long," said a senior UN diplomat.

The ceasefire, agreed by the warring parties at talks in Sweden last month, has largely held but sporadic skirmishes have flared.

The UN has struggled to implement the withdrawal of forces from both sides.

"If anything, the ceasefire has held in substance longer than I think we might have thought, but it's obviously not easy, and it's very challenging... because the parties have different interpretations of what was agreed in Stockholm," said the anonymous diplomat.

Armoured car hit

An armoured car in Cammaert's convoy was hit by a bullet last week as he was leaving a meeting with representatives of the government of Yemen.

No-one was injured and the UN said it did not know who fired the bullet.

The truce has averted a full-scale assault on Hodeidah, the entry point for the bulk of Yemen's commercial imports and vital aid supplies.

It is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing severe hunger in the poorest Arabian Peninsula country.

A military coalition led by neighbouring Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015 to back government forces.

The UN and Western countries, many of whom sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, have criticised the coalition for killing a large number of civilians, including children.