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Al Houthi delegates board a tug boat as they head to the meeting. During the two-day talks, the panel also agreed to deploy teams in four sites in Hodeida to monitor the ceasefire. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: The Yemeni government and Iran-allied Al Houthi militants have agreed to set up a joint, UN-overseen operations centre to de-escalate tensions in the western port province of Hodeida to shore up a faltering truce.

The move was decided at talks held aboard a UN ship off Hodeida and ended on Monday, a press statement said.

The centre, which will be set up at the UN mission in Hodeida, will comprise liaison and coordination officers from both sides and the UN, according to the statement.

The centre is tasked with defusing tensions through direct contacts among field officers to be deployed across Hodeida.

During the two-day talks of the Hodeida Redeployment Coordination Committee led by the UN, the panel also agreed to deploy teams in four sites in the Red Sea city to monitor a ceasefire and put an end to civilians’ suffering there.

Last December, Yemen’s internationally recognised government and Al Houthi extremists signed an agreement on pullout from Hodeida at UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden.

The pact was seen then as a breakthrough to end a devastating, years-long war in Yemen. However, the deal has since bogged down over Al Houthis’ recalcitrance

The agreement on the operations centre was announced amid new violations by Al Houthis in Hodeida. The militants shelled army positions and government-controlled residential areas in the province, local sources said.

The government forces Monday foiled an attack by Al Houthi militia on their outposts in the eastern and southern parts of Hodeida, they added.

The extremist attacks were unleashed as Al Houthis dispatched massive military reinforcements towards Hodeida’s southern district of Al Tahita and other areas, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Al Houthis had seized Hodeida in late 2014 as part of a coup against the internationally recognised government.

Hodeida is strategically important because most of imports and humanitarian aid to the impoverished country come through the city’s port.