Yemen's Houthis offer unilateral withdrawal from key ports in coming days

Yemen's Houthis offer unilateral withdrawal from key ports in coming days - UN

Hodeida is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen's imports and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions of civilians who have been pushed to the brink of starvation by more than four years of devastating conflict.

Lollesgaard welcomed the rebel plan "to undertake an initial unilateral redeployment from the ports of Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa".

Yemen's Houthi rebels have agreed to unilaterally redeploy forces out of three key ports between 11 and 14 of May to pave the way for United Nations management of the facilities under a UN-brokered peace deal, a UN committee said on Friday, cited by Reuters.

The governor of Hodeidah, al-Hassan al-Taher, stated that the move did not comply with the agreed upon terms of the Stockholm Agreement.

The UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement "will monitor and report on this unilateral redeployment", Michael Lollesgaard, head of the team of UN observers and monitors, said in a UN statement.

Brigadier Mohammed al-Qaderi, the Houthi representative in a joint coordination team, said the group had implemented "all obligations" of the first phase and called on the United Nations to commit the pro-government forces to do the same, AFP reported.

At Stockholm, it was hoped the redeployment would happen in January, but its implementation has repeatedly stalled on a lack of trust between the combatants: the Iran-aligned Houthis and the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, which includes the internationally recognised Yemeni government and other forces.

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They are also expected to leave positions around the outskirts of Hodeida in the initial redeployment, before a second phase in which both sides pull back further.

Moammar al-Eryani, information minister of Yemen's internationally recognised government, also dismissed the redeployment, alleging it was an attempt to "disinform the global community".

It comes five months after a UN-backed agreement was reached.

Yemen's Houthi group announced earlier Saturday that it will start to unilaterally redeploy forces out of the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa over four days as a move to pave the way for political negotiations to end Yemen's four-year-long war, according to the United Nations and a Houthi spokesman.

Humanitarian officials have long pleaded with Yemen's warring sides to spare Hodeidah, a lifeline for the crippled economy, dependent on the World Food Programme's biggest aid operation to feed more than 10 million people.

A Sunni-Muslim coalition led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in March 2015, to push back against an advance by the rebels and restore power to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The gesture of goodwill by the Houthi rebels did not sit well with Yemen's Saudi-backed government.

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