The UN Security Council expressed "grave concern" Wednesday that agreements reached four months ago by the warring parties in Yemen have not been carried out and called for their implementation "without delay."
The council reiterated its endorsement of the Dec. 13 cease-fire agreement between Yemen’s government and Houthi Shiite rebels that called for the "phased but rapid mutual withdrawals" of fighters from the key port of Hodeida, two smaller ports in the province, and Hodeida city.
In their statement, council members "noted with concern continued violence that risks undermining the cease-fire in Hodeida."
Hodeida is the main international entry point for 70 per cent of imports and humanitarian aid to Yemen, where nearly four years of war have spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. While the two sides agreed to the redeployment of forces, they have been pided over who will run the port of Hodeida once they pull out. The U.N.-brokered deal reached in Stockholm was vague on that point, saying only that a "local force" would take over without specifying who would lead it.
On a positive note, council members welcomed Monday’s announcement by the U.N. envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, that the government and Houthis had reached agreement on the military plan for the initial redeployment of forces from Hodeida. They urged the rival parties to engage with Griffiths and the head of the U.N. operation monitoring the withdrawals "to swiftly agree on local security force arrangements" and on the second phase of the redeployment.
The Security Council also called on both parties "to implement the redeployment plans as soon as possible and not seek to exploit the redeployment process." The council statement did not single out any party for delaying implementation of the Stockholm agreement. But it reaffirmed "their commitment to monitor the parties’ compliance with the redeployment plans."
Council members also called on the parties "to redouble efforts" to finalize arrangements for a prisoner exchange and to establish a coordinating committee in Taiz, where there has been fighting, as called for in the Stockholm agreements.
The council expressed concern about the recent escalation in violence elsewhere in Yemen, notably in Hajjah and on the Yemeni-Saudi border. The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Iranian-backed Houthis. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has killed thousands of civilians, left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages, and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
The Security Council reiterated its concern about "the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation across Yemen." While the agreements in Stockholm were limited, if fully implemented they could offer a potential breakthrough in the civil war. Griffiths told the council Monday there must be progress in Hodeida before moving to focus on the political solution.