HODEIDA, Yemen (AFP) – Yemen’s Huthi rebels handed over security of key Red Sea ports to the “coastguard” but much work remains to remove military equipment, the United Nations (UN) said on Tuesday.
The rebel pullback is part of a hard-won truce agreement struck in Sweden in December last year between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Iran-aligned Huthis.
But the government has accused the insurgents of merely handing over the ports to their own forces in different uniforms.
The UN said last Sunday it had been monitoring the withdrawal of the Huthi rebels from the Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Issa terminals.
A UN team was there on Tuesday to verify the redeployment.
Its head, General Michael Lollesgaard, welcomed the handover “of the security of the ports to the coastguard”, according to a UN statement.
“There is still a lot of work to be done on the removal of the manifestations, but cooperation has been very good.
“UN teams will continue to monitor these initial steps in an impartial and transparent manner.”
Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam wrote on Twitter that the rebels “have completed their commitment in implementing the first phase of redeployment”.
The city’s port serves as a lifeline for millions in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country, which has been pushed to the brink of famine by more than four years of devastating war.
Last year’s deal was hailed as a breakthrough that offered the best chance so far of ending the war in Yemen, where a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is fighting on the government’s side.
The agreement stipulates a full ceasefire, followed by a withdrawal of rival forces from the city of Hodeida and its surroundings.