HODEIDAH: Representatives from Yemen’s government and Houthi militants tasked with pulling forces out of the key port city of Hodeidah met Sunday for the first time in five months.
The redeployment from Hodeidah is a critical part of a cease-fire deal reached in December in Sweden that calls on the government and the Houthis to move forces away from ports and parts of city.
“The joint meeting of the redeployment coordination (committee) meeting started earlier this afternoon,” a UN official present at the meeting told AFP, adding it was set to continue Monday.
The last meeting was held on Feb. 16 and 17, the source added.
The UN head of the committee confirmed the meeting “aboard a UN vessel on the high seas,” adding it would center on “steps to implement” the Hodeidah pullback plan.
Led by Danish General Michael Lollesgaard, the committee established under the Sweden agreement includes representatives from the United Nations, the Yemen government and Houthi rebels.
The pullback was supposed to have taken place two weeks after the cease-fire went into force on Dec. 18, but that deadline was missed.
In May, the UN announced the militants had withdrawn from Hodeidah and two other nearby ports, the first practical step on the ground since the cease-fire deal.
But the government accused the militia of faking the pullout, saying it had merely handed control to its allies.
Lollesgaard confirmed in June there had been no Houthi military presence in all three ports since their withdrawal a month before.
The UN is hoping that a de-escalation in Hodeidah will allow desperately-needed food and medical aid to reach millions in need in Yemen.
The Red Sea port is the entry point for the bulk of imported goods and relief aid to Yemen, which the United Nations has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The Yemen conflict has killed tens of thousands of people since Houthi militants seized the capital in 2014 from the internationally recognized government.