The UN Security Council unanimously approved yesterday the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a new mission to shore up a fragile ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from the flashpoint port of Hodeidah.
The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.
The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeidah city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.
The port of Hodeidah is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s supplies of imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions on the brink of starvation.
The UN says a ceasefire that went into force on December 18 in Hodeidah has been generally holding despite some clashes, but there have been delays in the redeployment of rebel and government forces from the city.
The Houthis control most of Hodeidah, while government forces are deployed on its southern and eastern outskirts.
The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Guterres has described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeidah, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.
Since the Saudi-led military coalition intervened in support of the government in March 2015, the conflict has unleashed what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Nearly 10mn people in Yemen are on the brink of famine, according to UN aid officials, while 80% of the population — 24mn people — are in dire need of humanitarian aid.
The United Nations separately announced that the warring sides had agreed to allow aid agencies to reach the Red Sea Mills food warehouses in Hodeidah, which hold enough food to feed 3.5mn people for a month. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Cammaert will propose a plan to the Houthis and the government to allow aid convoys to go to the warehouses and pick up the 51,000 metric tonnes of food commodities.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre described diplomatic gains made in Yemen with the Stockholm agreement as “fragile” and stressed the importance of moving toward ending the war.
“The goal is to build on the current momentum, to make it irreversible and bring the full weight of the Security Council behind the process,” said Delattre ahead of the vote.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths has told the council that a follow-up round of talks that were to be held later this month was pushed back to February, diplomats said.
International Crisis Group expert Dan Schneiderman said the resolution was “a step in the right direction” and singled out US support for the measure as a sign that the administration sees value in the new peace process.
“Lowering the temperature in and around Hodeidah is critical for making broader peace talks accessible,” said Schneiderman, a former US national security council director for Yemen.
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