UN casts doubt on Houthi claims of Hodeida withdrawal

UN casts doubt on Houthi claims of Hodeida withdrawal
The United Nations has said that a 'credible' transfer of power in Hodeida can only take place if all other parties are present to verify it.
2 min read
30 December, 2018
A spokesman for Antionio Guterres said the Houthis failed to honour a key agreement [AFP]

The United Nations has cast doubt on the claims by Yemen's Houthi rebels to have withdrawn from the port of Hodeida, saying such steps can only be credible if all other parties can verify them.

A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Sunday that the rebels failed to honour an agreement to open a "humanitarian" corridor between Hodeida and the capital, Sanaa, to deliver humanitarian assistance.

The Houthis said on Saturday they had handed over control of the port to the government's coast guard as part of confidence-building measures agreed this month in peace talks in Sweden.

Reports on social media suggested that "control" of the port had been handed over to undercover Houthi fighters wearing coast guard uniforms.

The government denied the Houthi government claims, saying it was a ploy by the Iran-aligned rebels to maintain control of the port.

"We cannot accept these violations, which will lead to the failure of the agreement," a government source was quoted by the loyalist Sabaa news agency as saying in response to the Houthi claims.

Government officials and army representatives said the Houthis had taken advantage of their control of the city to place their own administrators and fighters in both the port management and the coast guard.

"It's a stage play in which the Houthis handed over the port to their fighters after they put on coast guard uniforms," said the Hodeida governor, Al-Hassan Taher.

Control of Hodeida, a vital entry point for supplies on the Red Sea, has been a key bone of contention between the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi rebels who control it.

Disagreements over the port's handover and administration threatened to derail peace talks between the two sides held in Sweden earlier this month.

The Sweden talks marked the first meeting in two years between the northern Houthi rebels and the Hadi government that has been backed since 2015 by the Saudi-led coalition.

The last round of talks, hosted by Kuwait in 2016, collapsed after more than three months of negotiations with no breakthrough.

The Yemen conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with 14 million Yemenis now at the brink of mass starvation.