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Yemen government agrees to UN Hodeida plan

Al Houthi rebels say they reserve right to attack

Gulf News

Cairo: Yemen’s legitimate government said on Saturday it agreed to a two-point plan advanced by the United Nations to ease suffering in the country’s civil war, but the Iran-backed Al Houthi movement remained sceptical.

On Thursday the UN Security Council urged the warring parties to agree on a UN-brokered plan to keep the Al Houthi-held port of Hodeidah out of the fighting and to resume government salary payments.

The UN has proposed that Hodeida, a vital aid delivery point on the Red Sea where some 80 per cent of Yemen’s food imports arrive, should be turned over to a neutral party. The UN Security Council warned the Saudi-led Arab coalition, that is fighting the Al Houthis, against any attempt to extend the war to the port.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdul Malek Al Mekhlafi said in a tweet his government renewed its acceptance of the proposals first made by UN Yemen envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad in May.

But a spokesperson for the Al Houthis said the Security Council through its statements was encouraging the Saudi-led alliance to resume its strikes and that they reserved the right to respond to any aggression.

“We reaffirm that the army and local committees have all the right and legality to respond to the alliance,” a statement by spokesperson Mohammad Abdul Salam said.

Yemen has been torn apart by more than two years of civil war that pits the Al Houthi group against the legitimate government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which is backed by the Saudi-led alliance. More than 10,000 people have died in the conflict and hunger is widespread.

The Saudi-led coalition has accused the Al Houthis of using Hodeidah to smuggle in weapons and ammunition and has called for UN monitors to be posted there. The Houthi movement denies the allegations.

Many thousands of Yemeni state workers are also facing destitution as their salaries have gone largely unpaid for several months after the internationally-recognised government shifted Yemen’s central bank to Aden from the capital Sana’a, which is controlled by Al Houthis.

UN Yemen envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad had told the Security Council on May 30 that he had proposed a deal to avoid military clashes in Hodeidah to be negotiated in parallel with an agreement to resume civil service salary payments nationally.

However, he noted the Al Houthis and the allied General People’s Congress, the party of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, would not meet with him.