A step forward

Friday, 2019-07-19 17:29:16
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Girls carry cans they filled up with water at a camp for internally displaced people in Dharawan, near the capital Sanaa, Yemen February 28, 2017. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO - After reconciliation efforts, the United Nations (UN) announced that Yemen's warring parties have agreed to new measures to enforce a ceasefire and facilitate a troop pullback from the flashpoint port of Hodeidah. This is a step on a long road to open the door for negotiation.

In the context of growing tensions in the Gulf with a series of crises, the Yemen issue should soon be resolved in order to reduce the “heat” from the region. The UN has been actively promoting shuttle diplomacy efforts to urge conflict parties in Yemen to accept ceasefire and conduct a dialogue.

Last week, with an intermediary effort by the UN, representatives of the Yemeni Government and Houthi group met to discuss the deployment of a plan to withdraw troops from the strategic port of Hodeidah, which was reached at a meeting in Stockholm (Sweden) last December.

As a result, the two sides agreed to deploy as soon as possible a new mechanism and measures to consolidate the ceasefire and reduce tensions, with the backing of the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA).

For more than half a year since the two warring parties in Yemen reached a ceasefire agreement, the conflict continued in the city of Hodeidah. This is the arterial port that supplies aid to millions of Yemeni who are on the brink of starvation.

The conflict threatened to cause a serious humanitarian disaster when this strategic port city was blocked, making UN aid agencies unable to implement humanitarian aid missions. The process of withdrawing troops in the city stalled and the UN Security Council passed a resolution on the deployment of up to 75 observers to Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah for six months to monitor a ceasefire and redeployment of forces by the warring parties.

Most recently, with the adoption of Resolution 2481, the Council decided to extend its political mission in Yemen for six months until January 15, 2020. The Council also called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deploy a full contingent of observers “expeditiously” in the mission, because there is currently only 20 on the ground.

Although the UN has tried to maintain a ceasefire in Hodeidah, in fact, the ceasefire agreement has always been threatened. Prevention a conflict in Hodeidah is just a temporary solution as millions of Yemeni are on the brink of starvation. The war has pushed the country into the world's most serious humanitarian crisis with 24.1 million people (more than two-thirds of the population) in need of emergency aid.

Yemeni government troops and Houthi group have continued to retaliate against each other. The conflict continued as the Saudi-led coalition still carried out airstrikes in response to a Houthi missile attack on destroying targets deep within the territory of neighbouring country - Saudi Arabia.

The Arab League recently carried out a series of air strikes aimed at several positions of Houthi forces in Yemen's Sanaa capital, after Houthi's drone attack near the south-western Saudi city of Khamis Mushait. The Saudi-led coalition also said it intercepted and downed three Houthi drones launched towards the south-western Saudi cities of Jizan and Abha near the Yemeni border. Arab parliamentarians have recently urged the UN to list the Houthi group as a “terrorist organisation”.

Bringing warring parties to sit at the negotiating table to maintain a ceasefire is considered an initial success in the UN’s intermediary effort. However, creating a real step forward in the peace process in the Arabian Peninsula is still a huge challenge.