UN: agreement between government and Houthi rebels for Hudaydah withdrawal

The United Nations welcomes "important progress". Go ahead for the first phase of the relocation plan in the port city. The area is the entry point for import products and international humanitarian aid, such as food and medicines. The parties have also reached a general agreement on phase 2.

Hudaydah (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The pro-Saudi government of Yemen (recognized by the international community) and the Houthi Shiite rebels supported by Iran have reached agreement on the first phase of the troop relocation plan in the port city of Hudaydah. The confirmation comes from an official note from the United Nations, which speaks of "important progress" in the perspective of a lasting cease-fire.

A devastating humanitarian tragedy is taking place in the area which has been the epicenter of the conflict. The withdrawal from Hudaydah was first achieved on 18 December, during the peace talks in Sweden. The first phase of the withdrawal should have started two weeks later, but neither side kept their commitment.

The agreement reached in these hours on the withdrawal and the new location of the two fronts outside the city is a key step in view of a possible truce. Hudaydah, a strategic port on the Red Sea in the western sector of the country, is the preferred entry point for imported products and international humanitarian aid, including food and medicines.

The statement released by the UN readss that " After lengthy but constructive discussions facilitated by the RCC Chair, the parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces.” The sides made "important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces" but no date was given to begin the demilitarization." The parties also agreed, in principle, on Phase 2 of the mutual redeployment, pending additional consultations within their respective leadership."

 The first phase involves the withdrawal from the ports of Hudaydah, Saleef, Ras Issa and parts of the city where humanitarian infrastructures are located. The United Nations wants these latest developments to bring food and medical care. A new round of talks, announces the UN, is expected within a week; at the center of the discussion the details to be completed in phase 2 of the redistribution. The discussions held over the weekend are the fourth meeting between the parties, in an attempt to find an agreement on how to withdraw the forces from the entry into force of the truce.

Progress in Hudaydah could represent the first step in the context of a conflict that, since March 2015 to date, has left an estimated 10 thousand dead and 55 thousand injured. Independent bodies set the toll (between January 2016 and end of July 2018) at about 50 thousand deaths. Since it only concerns the combatants, not the "indirect victims" (civilians) who have died from malnutrition or cholera.

Among the first victims there are children, who have died as a result of bombs or very serious malnutrition: at least 85,000 children under the age of five, according to various international humanitarian agencies. Recently UN experts have said that at least 14 million people are at risk of starvation.