On February 17, the United Nations (UN) described the mutual pullback of soldiers by the opposing parties involved in the Yemen civil war as “important progress” towards a potential ceasefire agreement and a permanent peaceful resolution to the conflict. The Houthis and the Yemeni government backed by the Saudi-UAE-led coalition agreed to pull back their armed ground forces from the key Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
According to the UN statement, the two sides finalized the deal in the first phase of the pullback, while also agreeing in principle on the second phase after two days of meetings in Hodeidah. Michael Lollesgaard, a Danish general, spearheaded the talks as the chair of the redeployment coordination committee (RCC). Under phase one, the Houthis will withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef ( used for grains) and Ras Isa, used for oil. The Saudi-led coalition will then reciprocate by retreating from the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah.
UN’s special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths told the 15-member UN security council on Tuesday that “with the beginning, possibly even today or tomorrow, of the implementation of that part of the Hodeidah agreement, we now have the opportunity to move from the promise made in Sweden to hope now for Yemen.”
However, on Monday, Houthi spokesperson, Mohammed Abdul Salam, said that they were waiting to hear from the UN before implementing the withdrawal agreement, and that it would take a minimum of two days to fully implement it. Government spokesperson, Sadeq Daweed, also said that both sides still have to agree on the local authority that will run the ports and the city before implementing phase one of the agreement.
The Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government had reached a ceasefire deal on December 18, 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden. The deal included a truce, a prisoner exchange and a subsequent withdrawal and redeployment of their forces. The withdrawal was supposed to take place by January 7 but it was never implemented owing to new outbreaks of violence in the city. Both the sides accused each other of being guilty of violating the ceasefire.