Yemen Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani: UN failing to pressure Houthis on peace

The rebels are not complying with the Sweden peace deal agreed in December, he said

Yemen's Roreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani holds a press conference following the peace consultations taking place at Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo, north of Stockholm, Sweden, on December 13, 2018. Yemen's government and rebels have agreed to a ceasefire in flashpoint Hodeida, where the United Nations will now play a central role, the UN chief said. / AFP / Jonathan NACKSTRAND
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The UN is failing to pressure the Houthis to comply with a peace deal that aims to end Yemen's brutal war, the country's foreign minister, Khalid Al Yamani told The National.

Yemen’s warring sides agreed on a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from Hodeidah at consultations in Sweden in December, the first in two years. It was the first major breakthrough in peace efforts to end the four-year-long war.

But the rebels have failed to withdraw from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef and Ras Issa, he said.

"Houthis are failing to be a responsible partner and the United Nations needs to be more vocal in the way they tell those who are not implementing the deal that you are responsible for durable peace in Yemen," Mr Al Yamani said on the sidelines of the 46th session of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation in Abu Dhabi.

The Houthis are expected to withdraw their troops today, the Yemeni minister said.

“We hope now that the UN special envoy, Martin Griffiths, and head of the UN monitoring team in Hodeidah general Michael Lollesgaard will ensure that this will happen,” he said.

The UN said earlier this month that both sides had agreed to withdraw their forces from the three main ports in Hodeidah in a two-phase process.

Phase one of the deal stipulates that rebel fighters must withdraw from the ports. In phase two, forces of the Arab-led coalition that backs Yemen's government must leave the eastern outskirts of the city.

“If the Houthis do not accept the idea of a withdrawal then there will be no peace, we have no option, failure is not an option in Hodeidah,” he said.

Mr Al Yamani confirmed that the government will continue to pressure the rebels.

The ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops is essential to ensuring the flow of food and humanitarian aid into Yemen, where millions of people are facing starvation as a result of the conflict.

“We ask Mr Griffiths to express himself and say to the Houthis you must implement the deal,” he said, adding that the government will assist the UN envoy with his task.

Mr Griffiths left Sanaa on Thursday following a three-day visit to Yemen during which he held intensive talks with Houthi leaders to ensure their side of the deal is still in place. But rebel forces remain inside Hodeidah.

Houthi forces are expected to withdraw five kilometres from the ports of Saleef, used for grain, and Ras Issa, an oil terminal, as a first step agreed with the internationally recognised government.

The government has expressed at various times that the Houthis “do not understand the meaning of withdrawal”, Mr Al Yamani said.

Yemen’s top diplomat said that Iran is using its tactics to influence the Houthis’ actions.

“We don’t have failure as an option, because failing on the implementation of Hodeidah will create more war, destruction in Yemen and cycle of violence will continue,” he said.

The government considers the Swedish deal to have given great “momentum” to ensure that a political process can be attained in Yemen.

“We need to keep pushing to ensure that momentum is kept alive,” Mr Al Yamani said.

Asked if there will be another round of peace talks he said that serious process must be made on the Swedish deal before any consultations are launched.

Mr Griffiths has expressed his ambition to hold further talks this year designed to make progress on a long-term political settlement to end the civil war.