Yemen sides meet on Hodeida for first time in five months

HODEIDA, Yemen (AFP) – Representatives from Yemen’s government and Huthi rebels tasked with pulling forces out of the key port city of Hodeida met last Sunday for the first time in five months.

The redeployment from Hodeida is a critical part of a ceasefire deal reached last December in Sweden that calls on the government and the Huthis to move forces away from ports and parts of city.

“The joint meeting of the redeployment coordination (committee) meeting started earlier this afternoon,” a United Nations (UN) official present at the meeting told AFP, adding it is set to continue this week. The last meeting was held on February 16 and 17, the source added.

The UN head of the committee confirmed the meeting “aboard a UN vessel on the high seas”, adding it would centre on “steps to implement” the Hodeida pullback plan.

Led by Danish General Michael Lollesgaard, the committee established under the Sweden agreement includes representatives from the UN, the Yemen government and Huthi rebels.

Representatives of the United Nations Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) attend a joint meeting with representatives of the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels on a vessel off the coast of the Yemeni port city. – AFP

The pullback was supposed to have taken place two weeks after the ceasefire went into force on December 18 last year, but that deadline was missed. In May, the UN announced the rebels had withdrawn from Hodeida and two other nearby ports, the first practical step on the ground since the ceasefire deal.

But the government accused the militia of faking the pullout, saying it had merely handed control to its allies.

Lollesgaard confirmed in June there had been no Huthi military presence in all three ports since their withdrawal a month before.

The UN is hoping that a de-escalation in Hodeida will allow desperately-needed food and medical aid to reach millions in need in Yemen.