Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement censured recent comments by British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the control of Hudaydah, saying the top UK diplomat is distorting the terms of a UN-mediated ceasefire deal reached between the Yemeni warring sides in Sweden over the strategic Red Sea port city.
During a visit to Yemen on Sunday, Hunt — whose country has been a major supporter of the deadly Saudi-led war on Yemen — claimed that Hudaydah “was supposed to be cleared of militia and left under neutral control by the beginning of January”, presstv reported.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, a spokesman for the movement, rejected the comments in a statement released on Monday, stressing that the Hudaydah truce had never mentioned handing over the port city to a “neutral” party.
The ceasefire, he added, had stipulated that after the withdrawal of the warring sides, Hudaydah would be patrolled by an unspecified “local force” with UN observers.
“We are prepared to carry out the redeployment in the first step, but the other party refused because they do not want to expose the aggression mercenaries and to lose the pretexts and justifications for continuing the aggression on the West Coast,” Abdul-Salam stated.
Representatives from the Houthi movement and the Riyadh-sponsored government of the ex-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, agreed to cease fighting in Hudaydah during peace talks in Sweden last December.
Under the agreement, the rival parties also agreed to the withdrawal of their troops and the deployment of UN monitors to the port city, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.
However, the Houthis – who control Hudaydah – have repeatedly complained about ceasefire breaches by the Saudi-backed side.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the Houthi spokesman said that the countries, which are involved in the bloody military campaign against Yemen, especially Britain are the ones violating the Hudaydah truce.
He also added that the UN special envoy for Yemen – a British national – was relying on the UK in dealing with the Yemen issue.
“Martin Griffith appears not to be an envoy of the United Nations, but an English envoy representing Britain, especially after the British Foreign Office has made its objectives and position clear, which is in line with the obstruction of the agreement,” the Houthi official noted.
“Britain has clearly revealed that it manages the process of blocking the agreement through its envoy to Yemen under the cover of the United Nations,” he pointed out.
Hudaydah, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and vital aid, has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the four-year Saudi war.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE launched the offensive against Hudaydah in June 2018, but they have faced strong resistance put up by Yemeni armed forces – led by the Houthis – and the city’s residents.
The Saudi-led coalition claims that the Houthis are using the port for weapons delivery, an allegation rejected by the fighters.
The UK has licensed over £4.7 billion worth of arms exports, including missiles and fighter jets, to Riyadh since the Saudi regime and its allies launched a broader military campaign against Yemen in early 2015.
Britain has also been providing combat intelligence and target data to Saudi Arabia over the course of the war.