UAE official acknowledges ‘pause’ in campaign for Yemen port
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen has “paused” its campaign to retake the rebel-held port city of Hodeida in support of U.N. peace efforts, an Emirati official said Sunday.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash acknowledged the week-old pause after Yemen’s warring parties agreed to restart talks with U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths.
“The Coalition has paused the advance on the city & port on June 23 for a week to allow the UN envoy to secure an unconditional withdrawal from Hodeida,” Gargash tweeted.
The coalition launched the Hodeida offensive in June, in a bid to break a three-year stalemate in its war against the Iran-aligned rebels, known as Houthis. The fighting has largely been confined to the city’s outskirts.
Griffiths has been talking to both sides to try and prevent an all-out assault.
Around 70 percent of Yemen’s imported food and medicine arrives in Hodeida, making it a vital lifeline for a country that is already on the brink of famine. The U.N. considers Yemen to be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people in need of assistance.
Aid groups fear a protracted fight for Hodeida could shut down the port and potentially tip millions into starvation.
The coalition went to war with the Houthis in March 2015, hoping to restore the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi after the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa. The government has called on the Houthis to withdraw from all the areas they control, including a “complete and unconditional” pullout from Hodeida.
The Houthis have refused to withdraw from Hodeida, but they recently offered to let the U.N. manage the port as part of a cease-fire in the city. Griffiths says both sides have agreed to the deal in principle, and that the U.N. would take over administration of the port as soon as they finalize the agreement.