Yemen government denies quitting Stockholm agreement

Government will resume meetings this week with UN envoy Martin Griffiths

Yemeni fighters loyal to the country's exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi ride a tank past a destroyed building during clashes with Shiite Huthi rebels in the country's third-city of Taez on May 30, 2019. Taez, in southern Yemen, is under siege by the Huthis but controlled by pro-government forces, who are supported by the military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. / AFP / Ahmad AL-BASHA
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Yemen’s internationally recognised government on Tuesday denied it was withdrawing from a peace deal reached in Sweden.

The pact, known as the Stockholm agreement, was signed by the government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels last December, and brokered by the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

It includes agreements on a prisoner swap, a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from the Red Port city of Hodeidah, and the formation of a committee to negotiate the future of Taez city.

Recent reports suggested that breaches of the agreement by the Houthis had pushed the government to re-examine its position, a claim an official denied.

"No such move is in consideration," the official told The National.

The government reaffirmed the “UN adherence to the three references of the Yemen peace process and to the actual Stockholm deal", he said.

The government also recently denied that it had lost confidence in Mr Griffiths.

“There’s been a lot of tension in the past month due to Mr Griffiths’ performance and the Houthis’ lack of adherence to the peace deal,” the official said.

The government will resume its meetings with the envoy this week.

“There’s work going on regarding Taez as well,” the official said. The southern city is besieged by the Houthis.

He said Mr Griffiths was in a tough situation because the rebels were  refusing to implement the Stockholm deal.

“He’s tried to please them too much, which has given him little leverage on them,” the official said.

Last month, Yemen’s internationally recognised President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi wrote to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, complaining about the envoy’s mediation.

Complaints included the UN envoy’s treatment of the Houthis as a de facto government, and his acceptance of the rebels’ withdrawal from three western ports in Hodeidah province without the presence of government observers, as had been agreed.

Shortly after the letter was sent, one of Mr Guterres's aides held discussions with Mr Hadi to reassure him.

“Hopefully, that should clear the atmosphere and allow for the resumption of a normal situation,” the official said.

“Mr Griffiths will set the atmosphere by how he’ll act now on. The briefing to the Security Council on June 17 wasn’t perfect but was a very good step."

The government’s dispute with the UN envoy to Yemen is over the rebel handover of Hodeidah’s ports to the coastguard, who the government says are rebel fighters disguised in different uniforms.

The war in Yemen broke out after the rebels seized Sanaa in 2014, driving the government from the capital.