The United Nations (UN) says Yemen’s Ansarullah movement have handed over security of three key ports in the western province of Hudaydah to the local “coastguard” by unilaterally pulling out from the ports in line with a UN-brokered accord, while hinting that the other side to the conflict has not carried out its end of the bargain.
The Ansarullah movement has been in control of the key ports of Salif, Ras Isa, and Hudaydah, the last of which has been under a tight siege and offensive by forces fighting on behalf of a former Yemeni regime as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two main countries in a coalition waging war on Yemen.
More than 70 percent of Yemen’s imports used to pass through the docks of Hudaydah, a lifeline for the war-ravaged country’s crippled economy. Salif was used for unloading all main types of grain, and Ras Isa, a vital oil terminal, was used for exporting Ma’rib’s light crude oil.
The lengthy siege has pushed tens of thousands of people in Yemen to the verge of starvation and crippled the country’s economy. In an effort to prevent the humanitarian situation from further deteriorating and to avert a larger assault by the Saudi-led coalition on the ports, the Ansarullah signed a UN-brokered agreement with the ex-government in Sweden last December.
The warring sides agreed to withdraw their forces from the ports in a two-stage process, the first phase of which for the Ansarullah side unilaterally began on Saturday and was scheduled to be completed on Tuesday.
Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, the head of the UN Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), in a statement on Tuesday confirmed the handover “of the security of the ports to the coastguard” by the Ansarullah movement, an important step in the first phase of the so-called redeployment.
“UN teams have been monitoring this redeployment, which has been executed, partly as agreed by the Yemeni parties in the concept of phase one,” he said after visiting the ports.
In the first stage, the Ansarullah movement had to draw back five kilometers from the three ports until Tuesday, while the forces of the former government, currently concentrated four kilometers from Hudaydah, were to withdraw one kilometer from the flash-point ports.
The latter forces, however, has so far firmly refused to retreat, and the the Ansarullah movement has denounced them for the refusal. On Saturday, the Ansarullah spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam strongly called on the UN and the UN Security Council to press the former regime and the Saudi-led coalition to act in accordance with the Stockholm agreement.
Lollesgaard said, “There is still a lot of work to be done on the removal of the (military) manifestations, but cooperation has been very good,” without giving further details.
The UN Security Council is due to hear a briefing on Hudaydah on Wednesday.
In the second phase of the redeployment, both sides would pull troops 18 kilometers outside Hudaydah and heavy weapons 30 kilometers away.
According to the Stockholm agreement, the UN will help in the management of the three key ports, which will be operating under the control of Yemen’s Red Sea Port Corporation and local coast guards. The world body also will assist in inspection of ships.