Warsaw summit: Quad of nations puts pressure on Houthis to cede control of Hodeidah

Joint statement by US, British, Emirati and Saudi foreign minsters at Warsaw meeting says Iran-backed rebels, must implement the Stockholm agreement

Saudi's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir walks after posing for a family photo at the Middle East conference at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland, February 13, 2019. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel
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Pressure on Houthi forces to implement the Stockholm agreement intensified Wednesday after the “quad” support group of the Arab coalition met in Warsaw.

As the US and Poland hosted a Middle East summit, the four-member grouping of the US, UK, UAE and Saudi Arabia demanded Houthi forces in Yemen’s key port immediately comply with the UN-backed deal signed last year.

A joint statement said rapid and full compliance with the accord was urgently needed. Houthi leadership compliance would ensure the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement (UNHMA) would not be sabotaged in its mission.

“The ministers called on the Yemeni parties in their areas of control, in particular the Houthis who still control the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Isa, to ensure the security and safety of UNMHA personnel,” the joint statement said late Wednesday.

The four ministerial leaders also foreshadowed the main focus of the Middle East conference in Warsaw due to wrap up on Thursday.  Iran's role in a series of conflicts including Lebanon, Syria and Yemen will come under the spotlight.

“The Ministers also discussed Iran’s de-stabilising effect on Yemen, through the illicit provision of finance, ballistic missiles and advanced weaponry to the Houthis, and in the wider region,” the joint statement said. “In this regard, the Ministers noted the UN Panel of Experts’ finding that Iran has provided advanced weaponry to the Houthis.”

With the grave humanitarian situation in Yemen at the forefront of the meeting, the ministers called for an end to the obstruction and looting of aid convoys and acknowledge efforts to refloat the Yemeni economy.

“In this regard, the Ministers welcomed the deposit of $2.2 billion by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the Central Bank of Yemen, their financial contribution to oil derivatives and the $570 million contribution paid by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to tackle food security and pay teachers’ salaries,” the statement said.

After a gala opening dinner, the conference will  hear from Vice President Mike Pence, Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, as well as White House adviser Jared Kushner, who is President Donald Trump's son-in-law, who will speak to US plans for peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

The plan is being drafted by Mr Kushner and Jason Greenblatt, Mr Trump's envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace, who has dismissed a Palestinian claim that resolving the conflict would bring about peace in the region.

Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo give a joint press conference on February 12, 2019 in Warsaw. / AFP / Janek SKARZYNSKI
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz give a joint press conference ahead of the Warsaw summit. AFP 

After the quad, Mr Hunt said the UN-led talks process was “the best chance we’ve had for a very long time” following the "surprising success" of the Stockholm talks.

He added the end goal of an agreement in which the Houthis do not play a dominant role needed a build-up of trust to get to that outcome. “We are on a path to peace but there is still an absence of trust,” he said.

Other European countries. including France and Germany, refused to send foreign ministers as part of a delicate balancing act that has seem them try to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran following America's withdrawal last year.

"There will be discussions about Iran’s influence in the Middle East, what we can do to help get Iran on a more helpful footing that it has been, to collectively push back on some of its malign behaviour in the region,” a US official said.