Head of UN ceasefire monitors flies into Sanaa

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert (in sunglasses), who heads a UN team monitoring a ceasefire in Yemen's Hodeida, greeting officials upon his arrival in the Yemeni capital Sanaa yesterday.
Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert (in sunglasses), who heads a UN team monitoring a ceasefire in Yemen's Hodeida, greeting officials upon his arrival in the Yemeni capital Sanaa yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Team overseeing truce in Hodeida includes Yemen govt members and Houthi rebels

SANAA (Yemen) • The head of the United Nations team tasked with monitoring a fragile ceasefire in Yemen's port city of Hodeida arrived in the rebel-held capital Sanaa yesterday.

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert is heading a joint committee, including members of the government and the Houthi rebels, in charge of monitoring a truce in the Red Sea city and its surroundings.

Mr Cammaert was greeted by the head of the Houthi delegation, Mr Ali al-Mushki, and other members of the UN team at Sanaa international airport.

He is making a stop in Sanaa before heading to Hodeida, a lifeline port city that serves as the entry point for the majority of imports to war-torn Yemen, a UN official said.

Last Saturday, Mr Cammaert arrived in Aden where he held talks with Yemen government officials.

During those talks, he urged Yemeni leaders and the Saudi-led coalition backing the loyalists to uphold the ceasefire that came into effect on Dec 18, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

Around 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led intervention, according to the World Health Organisation, although rights groups say the death toll could be five times higher. The conflict has unleashed a major humanitarian crisis and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

He also "sought their commitment and cooperation to secure the unhindered flow of humanitarian aid", said Mr Dujarric, adding that Mr Cammaert will "convey similar messages" to the Houthis in Sanaa.

The UN Security Council unanimously approved last Friday a resolution authorising the deployment of observers to Hodeida, which is held by the rebels and has been subjected to an intense offensive by pro-government forces.

Both the government and the rebels backed the resolution last Friday. Rebel negotiator, Mr Mohammed Abdelsalam, said it marked "an important step towards stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade".

He was referring to the Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in 2015 and imposed a blockade on Yemeni waters and airports.

The internationally recognised government, in turn, reaffirmed in a statement its "commitment (to respect) the agreement" reached in Sweden and endorsed by the UN resolution.

It also pledged to work "in a positive spirit" with UN envoy Martin Griffiths towards a lasting political agreement to end the war.

A halt to fighting in the strategic port city follows intense diplomatic efforts which culminated in peace talks earlier this month in Sweden, where the warring parties agreed to the ceasefire which came into force on Dec 18.

The truce remained shaky, however, with both sides accusing each other of violations in Hodeida province.

The UN monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of Hodeida port and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.

The text approved by the Security Council "insists on the full respect by all parties of the ceasefire agreed" for Hodeida.

It authorises the UN to "establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days from the adoption of this resolution, an advance team to begin monitoring" the ceasefire, under Mr Cammaert's leadership.

Around 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led intervention, according to the World Health Organisation, although rights groups say the death toll could be five times higher.

The conflict has unleashed a major humanitarian crisis and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2018, with the headline 'Head of UN ceasefire monitors flies into Sanaa'. Print Edition | Subscribe