Yemen government rejects UN presence in Hodeida

Yemen government rejects UN presence in Hodeida
UN boots on the ground in Yemen is 'something we will never accept', Foreign Minister Khalid al Yamani has said.
2 min read
10 December, 2018
Hodeida port receives the majority of Yemen's commerical goods and crucial aid supplies [Getty]
Yemen's Saudi-backed government has rejected the long-term presence of UN troops in the country's lifeline port city of Hodeida, as peace talks continue in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani told Reuters on Monday that the Red Sea port, controlled by the Houthi rebels, should come under the government's authority.

Yemeni forces, backed by Saudi and Emirati troops, have been circling the city for weeks. UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been trying to avert an assault on Hodeida, which could spark a huge humanitarian crisis in a country where half of the population, 14 million people, are on the brink of famine.

Earlier Monday, a proposal was reportedly floated for the Houthis to withdraw, and for a joint commitee to be established between the warring parties to control Hodeida.

The Houthis told Reuters they want Hodeida to be declared a neutral zone, but Yamani rejected this suggestion.

"The concept of peacekeeping or some sort of permanent presence of the UN - boots on the ground - or making the city as neutral is something that we will never accept," he said on the sidelines of the talks.

The government's ideal outcome would be full control of the city as a matter of sovereignty, although Yamani said it would be willing to accept the presence of monitors from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) in the port, through which the majority of commercial goods and aid are imported.

Revenues could also be transferred to the central bank in Hodeida, rather than Aden where the government is based, Yamani said.

While Griffiths aims for a truce on Hodeida and Taiz in this round of talks, negotiations on a transitional governing body could be tackled early next year.

The reopening of Sanaa airport is also on the negotiation table.

Western governments have pressed for an end to the war, which massively escalated when the Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015 to restore the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after Iran-backed Houthis overran the capital.

The protracted conflict, seen widely as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran, has come under increased scrutiny after the 2 October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom's Istanbul consulate that drew attention to the actions of Riyadh's de-facto ruler and defence chief Mohammad bin Salman.

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