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UN authorizes monitoring of Yemen ceasefire in key port

UN authorizes monitoring of Yemen ceasefire in key port
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The UN Security Council voted unanimously Wednesday to authorize a UN mission to monitor implementation of a ceasefire and the withdrawal of rival forces from Yemen s key port of Hodeida agreed to by the government and Houthi Shiite rebels.

The agreement, if fully implemented, could offer a potential breakthrough in Yemen s four-year civil war, which has brought the Arab world s poorest country to the brink of starvation and created the world s worst humanitarian crisis.

The British-drafted resolution establishes a United Nations political mission to oversee implementation of the ceasefire and redeployment of forces agreement that was reached by the warring parties in Stockholm on Dec. 13. It gives a green light for up to 75 UN monitors to be deployed for an initial period of six months.

Britain s UN Ambassador Karen Pierce called it "an important moment for the UN" to solidify the Stockholm agreement.

"This is by no means the end of the story," Pierce told reporters before the vote. "This is going to be a very important issue for 2019. But with the deployment of this substantive mission, we can start to make progress on the ground."

France s UN Ambassador Francois Delattre said "the goal is to build on the current momentum to make it irreplaceable, and for that to bring the full weight of the Security Council behind the process."

The Security Council voted unanimously Dec. 21 to authorize UN monitors to observe implementation of the Stockholm agreement, but only for 30 days, so a new resolution was needed to establish a more permanent UN operation and extend the deployment. The UN said last week that about 20 UN monitors are in Yemen under retired Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, who will head the new UN mission.

Britain s Pierce said the agreement has seen "a welcome de-escalation around Hodeida, but there are still provocative acts being carried out, particularly by one party." She was apparently referring to reported actions by the Houthis who control the Hodeida area.

Pierce urged the warring parties to co-operate with Cammaert.

As a sign of the distrust between the government and the Houthis, the UN said Monday that their representatives refused to talk face-to-face during two meetings to discuss the redeployment of forces from Hodeida. So Cammaert had to shuttle between them.

The resolution adopted Wednesday authorizes the monitors to oversee the ceasefire in Hodeida and the surrounding area, de-mining operations at Hodeida and the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, and the redeployment of forces. They are also authorized to work with the government and rebels to assure that local forces provide security at the three ports.

The port of Hodeida handles 70 per cent of the food and humanitarian aid imported into Yemen and is critical to tackling the country s humanitarian crisis.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the Security Council last week that the humanitarian situation had not improved since the Stockholm agreement and "remains catastrophic," with 80 per cent of Yemen s population -- over 24 million people -- now in need of assistance.

"They include nearly 10 million people just one step away from famine," he said.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Yemen s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia and targeted vessels in the Red Sea
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