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UN chief requests approval to send 75 monitors to Yemen's Hodeidah: Report

Antonio Guterres requested UN Security Council approval for additional observers to monitor truce in critical port city, Reuters reports
A worker walks by a ship unloading a grain shipment at the port of Hodeidah on 5 January (Reuters)

The United Nations' secretary general requested approval from the UN Security Council late last month to send 75 additional observers to monitor a ceasefire agreement in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, Reuters has reported.

Antonio Guterres made the request on 31 December for the additional observers, whom the UN chief wants to deploy for a six-month period, the news agency said on Tuesday.

In a written request to the UNSC, Guterres described the proposed 75-strong team as "a nimble presence" to monitor compliance of the ceasefire deal between Yemen's Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the country's Saudi-backed President, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, as well as establish and assess conditions on the ground.

"Appropriate resources and assets will also be required to ensure the safety and security of UN personnel, including armoured vehicles, communications infrastructure, aircraft and appropriate medical support," Guterres wrote in his request, which was seen by Reuters.

"Such resources will be a pre-requisite for the effective launch and sustainment of the proposed mission," he said.

UN votes to send observers to Yemen's Hodeidah
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The UN brought Yemen's warring parties together for peace negotiations last month in Sweden, where they struck a deal to halt the fighting in Hodeidah, a critical port city through which most humanitarian aid enters Yemen.

The city has served as a vital lifeline for starving Yemeni civilians, who have been pushed to the brink of famine due to the war. Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign to root out the Houthis in 2015, after they ousted Hadi and took control of the capital, Sanaa.

Late last month, the UNSC approved a 30-day deployment of an advance monitoring team in Hodeidah, led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert. It also requested that Guterres submit a proposal for a more long-term deployment.

It is not clear how many monitors were currently on the ground with Cammaert, but the UN has said the observers are not uniformed or armed.

The monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of the city's port and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.

Guterres also called on Yemen's neighbouring states to assist the monitors by "ensuring the free, unhindered and expeditious movement to and from Yemen" of all personnel, equipment, supplies through their territory and the stationing of "support personnel, vehicles and aircraft on their territory".

The 15-member UNSC will need to take action on Guterres' request by about 20 January, when the advance team's 30-day authorisation expires, Reuters reported.

The news agency's report on Tuesday coincided with a meeting in Saudi Arabia between UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths and Hadi to shore up the shaky truce.

Hadi expressed his "support for the efforts and work" of Griffiths at the talks in Riyadh, AFP reported, citing Saba news agency.

The head of the president's office Abdullah al-Alimi wrote on Twitter that Hadi is committed to the Sweden accord and is ready to open up "all humanitarian access", AFP said.

Griffiths and UN aid chief Mark Lowcock are expected to brief the UNSC on the situation in Yemen on Wednesday.

The UN has said the ceasefire is largely holding in Hodeidah, while Griffiths is aiming to convene another round of talks between the country's warring parties this month.