The United Nations says Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement has agreed to unilaterally pull out its forces from three key ports over the next four days, a necessary step for the implementation of a ceasefire deal the warring sides reached in Sweden in December.
Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, who heads the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), a UN mission to monitor the deal, said in a statement on Friday that the movement would make an “initial unilateral redeployment” of its forces from Yemen’s three key ports of Hudaydah, Salif and Ras Isa between May 11 and May 14.
The movement, which has been significantly helping the Yemeni army against a Saudi-led military coalition for the past four years, and the country’s former Saudi-backed government, led by ex-president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, signed a UN-brokered truce deal in Stockholm on December 13.
More than 70 percent of Yemen’s imports used to pass through the docks of Hudaydah, a lifeline for the war-ravaged country’s crippled economy. However, since June last year, forces of the United Arab Emirates, a significant ally of Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen, and Hadi’s militia have laid a tight siege to the city, which is under the control of Houthi fighters.
The redeployment of forces from the three port cities is a critical part of the ceasefire deal, aimed at averting a full-scale assault on Hudaydah, but has so far failed to materialize on the ground.
The statement said the redeployment must be followed by “the committed, transparent and sustained actions of the parties to fully deliver on their obligations.”
It also stressed that the redeployment of forces should allow the UN to take “a leading role in supporting the Red Sea Ports Corporation in managing the ports” and to increase UN checks on cargoes.
Following the UN statement, the ex-president’s information minister said in a twitter post that the report on the Houthis’ redeployment offer “is inaccurate and misleading.”
He claimed that the reported redeployment offer was “unacceptable” because a required joint monitoring and verification mechanism as stipulated in the December pact was not foreseen in the UN’s Friday arrangement.
No response has been released yet either from the RCC or the Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has repeatedly complained about Saudi Arabia’s repeated violation of the ceasefire in Hudaydah.
Leading a coalition of its allies, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh, and to crush the Houthis.
The imposed war initially consisted of an aerial campaign, but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground mercenaries to Yemen. Furthermore, armed militia forces loyal to Hadi, in line with invaders, launch frequent attacks against Yemeni people in regions held by Houthis.
The aggression is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead.
The Saudi-led war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
A number of Western countries, the US and Britain in particular, are also accused of being complicit in the ongoing aggression as they supply the Riyadh regime with advanced weapons and military equipment as well as logistical and intelligence assistance.