UN monitoring team arrives in Yemen to help uphold fragile ceasefire

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Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert and his advance team to head to Sanaa for talks with Houthis before moving on to Hodeidah

General Cammaert will oversee a troop withdrawal from Hodeidah city and its port that was agreed during talks in Sweden (Reuters)
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Saturday 22 December 2018 15:33 UTC
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A United Nations team arrived in Yemen’s Aden on Saturday, tasked with monitoring a fragile ceasefire in the flashpoint port city of Hodeidah.

The team, led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert, has been deployed to help keep Yemen's warring parties apart around Hodeidah.

Its initial mandate lasts for 30 days, though that may be extended as needed.

The deployment follows breakthrough peace talks in Sweden last week, in which pro-government forces and Houthi rebels agreed to stop fighting around the highly strategic city, located on the Red Sea coast.

Fighting in Hodeidah, through which as much as 80 percent of Yemen’s food and aid is imported, has helped push some 16 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

However, following the negotiations in Sweden a ceasefire was declared in Hodeidah on Tuesday, and it has largely held despite a few clashes.

High-level meetings

Having arrived in Aden, Cammaert met with officials from the government of Abd Rabbouh Mansour Hadi, which operates from the southern city and Riyadh.

From Aden, the general and his advance team are expected to move on to the capital Sanaa, which is held by the Houthis, and then will travel to Hodeidah.

In Hodiedah, Cammaert will oversee a troop withdrawal from the city and its port, which was agreed during the talks in Sweden.

According to the UN, the monitoring team will not be armed or wear uniform, but will provide support for inspections and management of the key port, as well as the ports of Salif and Ras Issa.

Diplomats have said the team could consist of 30 to 40 members.

Cammaert on Saturday met General Saghir bin Aziz, who heads the government delegation on the committee that is tasked with withdrawing troops from the flashpoint city.

Welcomed resolution

On Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution that authorised the deployment of the monitoring team.

The resolution allows the UN to "establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days from the adoption of this resolution, an advance team to begin monitoring".

Once approved, the resolution was hailed by both sides of the conflict.

Late on Friday, Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam said it marked "an important step towards stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade," in a reference to the Saudi-led coalition fighting on the government's behalf.

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However, Abdelsalam criticized the resolution for failing to condemn the "crimes of the aggressors," according to the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV.

Meanwhile, the Yemeni government promised to work "in a positive spirit" with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths towards finding a peaceful agreement to end the war.

It endorsed the Security Council resolution and reaffirmed its "commitment [to respect] the agreement" reached in Sweden.

Saudi Arabia, a key government ally whose role in the devastating war has come under increasing scrutiny, also welcomed the resolution.

Khalid Manzalawi, Riyadh's envoy at the UN, said the resolution will mean the rebels "will lose their margin of manoeuvre," the official Saudi Press Agency reported.