The head of a UN monitoring mission in Yemen has warned that a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah remains fragile after a series of rebel violations.
Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert met with Houthi and government representatives on Monday on a boat anchored in Hodeidah, just a day after another meeting in the Red Sea.
Yemen’s warring sides agreed to a ceasefire deal that includes the withdrawal of their respective forces from the port city during peace talks in Sweden last December.
In Sunday’s meeting, Mr Cammaert urged representatives of the two parties “to instruct their commanders on the ground to refrain from any further violations that would jeopardise peace in Yemen,” according to a UN statement.
The general underlined the importance of respecting the ceasefire that came into effect on December 18.
“Both parties have reiterated their commitment to implementing the Hodeidah aspect of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement said, adding that the opening of the Hodeidah-Sanaa road to allow humanitarian access is also being negotiated.
The meeting was a third of its kind and was seen as a major step towards ending the crisis. Mr Cammaert is set to be replaced former Danish general Michael Lollesgaard, whose mandate is yet to begin.
“Talks are cordial and constructive,” said the statement, which was followed by a similar message from the UN Security Council that stressed the “critical importance of the parties fulfilling the commitments they made in Sweden”.
“The members of the Security Council called on the parties to seize this opportunity to move towards sustainable peace by exercising restraint, de-escalating tensions and moving forward with swift implementation,” the council said.
The Red Sea port of Hodeidah is a vital entry port for Yemen’s imported good and humanitarian aid, which is considered a lifeline for millions of civilians.
Yet, a Yemeni government official told The National that Houthi representatives are attempting to sabotage the deal.
“We have so far accepted all of General Cammaert’s proposals but the Houthis have rejected them,” the official, who asked to remain anonymous, said.
“During the meeting Houthi officials suggested new requirements that were not discussed before in an attempt to prevent any progress from occurring,” he said.
The development comes as Pope Francis said he was following the crisis in Yemen with great concern as he embarked on a historic trip to Abu Dhabi.
“I appeal to all sides involved and to the international community to urgently press for respect of the agreements that have been reached, to guarantee the distribution of food, and work for the good of the population.”
The UAE welcomed the Pope's message on Yemen and said the peace deal he referred to was a historic breakthrough, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash wrote on Twitter.
"Let us assure its implementation and make 2019 the year of peace in Yemen," he said after the Pope landed in Abu Dhabi.
The development follows an announcement made by Jordan on Saturday that it will host a second round of UN-backed talks between the government and Houthi prisoner swap committee.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry said that “Jordan’s agreement comes in line with the framework of its support for efforts to end the Yemeni crisis and the efforts of the Special Envoy to reach a political solution”.
The prisoner exchange agreement, signed in December 2018, was the first agreement concluded between the two parties since the outbreak of the war in Yemen.
The operation is expected to be implemented by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
A UN statement given to The National said on Monday that UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, and President of the ICRC Peter Maurer are scheduled to take part in the first day of the committee's meetings on Tuesday.
“During this round of technical meetings, the Supervisory Committee will discuss the steps taken by the two parties to finalise the lists of prisoners to advance the implementation of the agreement,” the statement said.