TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Renewed clashes broke out between Saudi-backed ex-government militants and the Houthi Ansarullah movement’s fighters in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, breaching a ceasefire and potentially threatening a withdrawal agreement intended to pave the way for wider peace talks.
The fighting prompted the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, to warn that peace could yet be a way off, despite earlier signs the pullout by Houthi forces was going to plan.
Their withdrawal from Hudaydah and two other Red Sea ports, which began on Saturday, was the most significant advance yet in efforts to end the four-year-old Saudi-led war.
Speaking to the UN security council in New York, Griffiths warned the alarming intensification could wipe out the progress made in Hudaydah, as other UN officials warned of a cholera outbreak on the brink of the rainy season, the risk of massive oil spills into the Red Sea and an 80% shortfall in promised aid, the Guardian reported.
Griffiths hailed the initial redeployment of Houthi forces from Hudaydah port, but told the security council, “War has a habit of trumping peace – its impact more corrosive than the positive impact of ending wars. We must not let war take peace off the table.”
Griffiths was referring to the rise of violence in Yemen, as well as signs of major breaches of the Hudaydah ceasefire.
The UN said on Tuesday the ports had been handed over to Yemen’s coast guard and the pullout was on target. However, both sides reported renewed clashes on Wednesday, a day after a drone attack by the Houthi Ansarullah movement hit two of Saudi Arabia’s oil-pumping stations.
The UK ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, described the news of the Houthi withdrawals as a significant step, and said the news from Yemen was both frightening and uplifting.
Griffiths confirmed an initial redeployment of forces from the three ports took place under UN monitoring between May 11 and 14, with the ports now under the control of the coast guard. He said his mission had confirmed the Houthis “were fully compliant throughout the withdrawal and had been fully cooperative, and had now left these three ports”.
Griffiths added the UN was ready to play a leading role in the Red Sea ports, including management and inspections of cargo. It will also help with improving efficiency, including enhanced lighting, and demining of outer port and public works.
Hudaydah, which is home to about 600,000 people, is Yemen’s second largest city by population. Its vital port – through which 70% of Yemen’s food, fuel and aid flows – has been under Houthi control since 2015 and has become the country’s major aid pipeline due to the Saudi-led coalition blockade of Yemen’s borders and airspace.