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UN Security Council in talks to save Yemen truce deal

UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths addresses the UN Security Council December meeting on Yemen [Anadolu/Getty]

Date of publication: 13 March, 2019

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With millions of Yemenis on the brink of famine, the UN is hoping to salvage a failing ceasefire agreement between the Saudi backed government and the Iran-linked Houthi rebels.
The United Nations Security Council met with its envoy for Yemen on Wednesday in an attempt to salvage a stalled truce deal seen as crucial in ending the war.

Yemen's government and its Saudi and Emirati allies agreed in talks with Iran-linked Houthi rebels nearly a month ago to begin a redeployment of forces from the crucial port city of Hodeida, but nothing has happened on the ground.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths told the council on February 19 that the initial stage of the pullback would happen in the following days.

The redeployment was initially agreed in December under a ceasefire deal reached in Sweden. At the time it was seen as a breakthrough toward ending the devastating war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The agreed upon withdrawal date of January 7 came and went without change. Both sides have accused each other of repeatedly breaching the ceasefire.

In a humanitarian situation described by the UN as the "world's worst", 14 million Yemenis are on the brink of famine and more than 85,000 have died from starvation.

The demilitarisation of the port city Hodeida, which handles about 70 percent of Yemen's commercial and humanitarian imports, is crucial to easing the humanitarian situation.

UN diplomats said the Houthis were refusing to pull away from the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa as agreed due to fears that Saudi-led coalition forces will move in to take over those facilities.

General Michael Lollesgaard, who heads a newly-created UN mission to monitor the redeployment from Hodeida, joined Griffiths in updating the council behind closed doors.

On Tuesday, the ambassadors of the US, France, Britain, China and Russia - who are permanent security council members - said they were "extremely concerned" the agreements reached in Stockholm had not been implemented, calling for the pullback to begin "without further delay and without seeking to exploit the redeployments by the other side".

Earlier this week, 12 children and 10 women were killed by strikes in Yemen's northern province of Hajjah that left many wounded.

Later this month, the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen will enter its fifth year, with millions of civilians facing famine.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. Yemen's rebels have since been locked in a war with government forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition in 2015.

The US has provided support to the coalition, including intelligence and, until recently, aerial refueling.

At the end of February, the United Kingdom pledged to boost humanitarian assistance to Yemen at a controversial European-Arab summit in Egypt, but also insisted on continued arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition which has been raining down death on the Arab world's poorest country and even destroying UK aid.

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