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Yemen government agrees to UN Hudaida plan, Houthis sceptical

The UN has proposed that Hudaida, a vital aid delivery point on the Red Sea, should be turned over to a neutral party
Supporters of the Houthi rebels shout slogans outside Sanaa airport upon the arrival of the UN special envoy to Yemen on 22 May (AFP)

Yemen's Saudi-backed government said on Saturday it agreed to a two-point plan advanced by the United Nations to ease suffering in the country's civil war, but the Iran-aligned Houthi movement remained sceptical.

On Thursday the UN Security Council urged the warring parties to agree on a UN-brokered plan to keep the Houthi-held port of Hudaida out of the fighting and to resume government salary payments.

The UN has proposed that Hudaida, a vital aid delivery point on the Red Sea where some 80 percent of Yemen's food imports arrive, should be turned over to a neutral party. The Security Council warned the Saudi-led Arab coalition that is fighting rebel Houthis against any attempt to extend the war to the port.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi said in a tweet that his government renewed its acceptance of the proposals first made by UN Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed in May.

But a spokesperson for the Houthis said the Security Council through its statements was encouraging the Saudi-led alliance to resume its strikes and that they, the Houthis, reserved the right to respond to any aggression.

"We reaffirm that the army and local committees have all the right and legality to respond to the alliance," a statement by Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdelsalam said.

Yemen has been torn apart by more than two years of a civil war that pits the northern-based Houthi group against the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, which is backed by the Saudi-led alliance. More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict and hunger is widespread.

The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Houthis of using Hudaida to smuggle in weapons and ammunition and has called for UN monitors to be posted there. The Houthi movement denies the allegations.

Many thousands of Yemeni state workers are also facing destitution as their salaries have gone largely unpaid for several months after the internationally recognised government shifted Yemen's central bank to Aden from the capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the Houthis.

UN Yemen envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed had told the Security Council on 30 May that he had proposed a deal to avoid military clashes in Hudaida to be negotiated in parallel with an agreement to resume civil service salary payments nationally.

However, he noted the Houthis and the allied General People's Congress, the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, would not meet with him.

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