Yemeni gov’t suspends meetings with UN monitoring mission over Hodeidah

Yemen’s government representatives at the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) on the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah suspended their meetings with Michael Lollesgard who heads the UN monitoring mission in the city, a military spokesman said Wednesday.

According to Waddah Dubaish, spokesman for joint pro-government forces in the country’s western coast, the government team suspended all meetings and discussions with Lollesgard during the past days.

“The government team was not allowed to enter Hodeidah’s ports to monitor the Houthi withdrawal and decided to continue boycotting the meetings with Lollesgard for that reason,” Waddah told Xinhua by phone.

“The government team has the right to enter Hodeidah’s ports to ensure removal of all armed elements,” he said.

The spokesman described the Houthis’ withdrawal from Hodeidah’s ports as “a misleading step that affected the credibility of Lollesgard” who supervised the process as a head of the joint RCC.

The last meeting that included the government’s representatives together with Lollesgard was held in the southern port city of Aden on May 11.

The warring parties in Yemen reached a UN-backed deal in Stockholm in December 2018, which included a governorate-wide cease-fire of Hodeidah and the formation of the RCC to monitor withdrawal of troops by both the government and the Houthis in the area.

During the past weeks, the Houthi rebels announced that the first phase of their three-day redeployment in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah was completed under the UN supervision.

According to the Stockholm Agreement, the first phase will see Houthi rebels withdraw five km from the three ports of Hodeidah, while the government forces should pull out four km to the south of Kilo-8 area.

The UN monitoring mission headed by Lollesgard visited the war-torn city and welcomed the Houthi rebels’ handover of the security of Hodeidah ports to the coast guards.

Yemeni government officials said the coast guard forces that took over the ports were recruited and trained previously by the Houthis for the mission.

On Tuesday, Yemen’s parliament issued a strongly-worded statement and called on the government to stop dealing with the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, accusing him of violating the UN resolutions and approving the Houthis’ unilateral withdrawal from Hodeidah’s ports.

The long-delayed UN-sponsored Stockholm Agreement, the first step toward a comprehensive political solution focused on the port city of Hodeidah, lifeline for Yemen’s most commercial imports and humanitarian aid.

The Iran-allied Houthi rebels control the city of Hodeidah which has been the focus of intense clashes since 2017.

The government forces, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, have advanced to the southern outskirts of the port city, but the forces have halted a major offensive to recapture Hodeidah to pave the way for peace efforts.