The UAE said that the Arab Coalition in Yemen is preparing its next phase of its military and humanitarian plan to push the Houthi rebels towards the negotiating table.
During a joint coalition meeting in Washington, UAE Ambassador to the US Yousef Al Otaiba reiterated the Emirates’ support for UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths efforts to “facilitate the Houthis’ peaceful and unconditional handover of Hodeidah port and city to the legitimate government of Yemen”.
Yemen government forces – backed by the coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE – launched an offensive on Hodeidah on June 13 to box the rebels into Sanaa, cutting off their supply lines and forcing them to work on a political process. The coalition intervened in the war in March 2015 at the request of the internationally-recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.
“The coalition is preparing the next phase of its calibrated and integrated military and humanitarian plan to press the Houthis to the negotiating table while meeting the needs of the Yemeni people,” the UAE Embassy in the US tweeted on Friday.
It also said that the city’s port remains open, adding that 25 ships have unloaded goods in the last month.
“Food for 6.6 million people for a month is already stockpiled in Hodeidah. But the Houthis are stealing and selling aid to fund their war effort,” said the Embassy.
“The Houthis have placed tens of thousands of landmines and IEDs. They are firing ballistic missiles. They are using sea mines to block shipping.”
The Arab Coalition said it foiled a Houthi attack on civilian fishing boats in the Red Sea on Saturday and seized the rebels' boats along with a cargo of weapons. Fishermen in the province have previously reported being harassed by the rebels to help them smuggle in weapons.
The coalition also confirmed permitting an oil tanker to enter Hodeidah port and said six ships were already unloading their cargoes, state Saudi broadcaster reported on its website
At the meeting in Washington, UAE Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh outlined the coalition's humanitarian plan to address the needs of the Yemeni people, including the restoration of Hodeidah port and other infrastructure damaged by the Houthis.
"Our efforts are now dedicated to implementing Security Council resolution 2216, which demands that the Houthis end their use of violence and withdraw their forces from all the areas they have seized. We believe liberating Hodeidah is vital in order to restart the political process," she said.
"Our vision for Yemen's success doesn't end with Hodeidah. When a political agreement is eventually reached and the conflict ends, the recovery will require stability, development and investment. The UAE stands ready to help rebuild and develop the country when that time comes."
Mr Griffiths said on Thursday after talks with Mr Hadi in the de facto capital of Aden that both the rebels and the government have confirmed their willingness to talk.
The Yemeni government and the coalition said that the Houthis must completely withdraw from the city and hand over control to the UN. However, the rebels – who have been using Hodeidah to smuggle weapons provided by Iran – have so far only agreed to share control with the UN.
The port is also an entry point for aid deliveries and commercial goods, and the Yemeni government fears the rebels’ grip on the city will cut the only lifeline for millions facing starvation.
The UAE’s military involvement has run in parallel with a programme to assist civilians, particularly through the Emirates Red Crescent. The ERC announced on Friday the distribution of food aid for 21,000 people, including 15,000 children, in Khokha district of Hodeidah province, which was recaptured from the rebels in December.