Cairo: A purported withdrawal by Yemen’s Al Houthis from three ports in the western city of Hodeida is an attempt by the Iran-allied militants to evade their obligations under a UN-sponsored peace deal, analysts and officials have said. Al Houthis said they began unilaterally withdrawing on Saturday from the ports of Hodeida, Saleef and Ras Eisa in the Red Sea city under an agreement reached in Sweden in December. The UN said it is monitoring the pullout, which will continue until Tuesday. Yemen’s internationally-recognised government sounds sceptical about the move.
“This alleged pullout gives the false impression that there is progress in implementing the Stockholm agreement five months after it was signed,” said Adnan Mansour, a Yemeni political expert living in Cairo.
“But in the absence of joint supervision from the three sides [the government, the UN and Al Houthis] as the agreement stipulates, this step is deceptive. It will even fuel misgivings about both the militias and the UN role,” he told Gulf News.
This alleged pullout gives the false impression that there is progress in implementing the Stockholm agreement five months after it was signed.
“It seems that the UN envoy for Yemen [Martin Griffiths] is eager to see any progress, even if it were untrue. But this will damage his credibility and that of the international organisation,” Mansour said.
The UN–brokered Sweden pact was seen as the first real successful agreement between the Yemeni government backed by a Saudi-led coalition and Al Houthi extremists.
However, over the past five months, Al Houthis have blocked moves to put the deal into effect and repeatedly violated a truce in Hodeidah.
“For their part, Al Houthis have been under international pressure in the last months in order to carry out their commitments under the Stockholm agreement. By claiming this one-sided withdrawal, they hope to alleviate this pressure and score a PR victory,” Mansour said.
In the same vein, Yemeni politician Yassin Saeed said the withdrawal declaration could be a sort of camouflage.
“It may be a move meant to spare the UN envoy embarrassment when he presents a briefing to the [UN] Security Council on May 15 about the implementation of the Stockholm accord,” Saeed said, according to the Yemeni news portal Adan Al Ghad.
Saeed warned that any step, which gives Al Houthis a chance to renounce their commitments, will scuttle the Sweden deal.
“Therefore, it is the duty of the government to insist that Al Houthis carry out a complete pullout in Hodeida,” he added.
The internationally-recognised government has called into question Al Houthis’ alleged withdrawal.
“Any unilateral redeployment without joint monitoring and verification is considered a circumvention of the agreement and a ridiculous play like before,” said Saghir Bin Azziz, the head of the government team at a Hodeida redeployment panel. “This will expose the UN,” he added in a tweet.
In late December, Al Houthis claimed to have handed over the Hodeida harbour. Soon, it turned out they surrendered it to their loyalists.