UN to report Tuesday on rebel withdrawals from 3 Yemen ports

UN to report Tuesday on rebel withdrawals from 3 Yemen ports

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations said it will report Tuesday on whether rebel forces in Yemen carried out a key first step in the redeployment of forces from three key ports, and is moving ahead to discuss the issues of management and use of revenues from the ports.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Monday that "all three ports were monitored simultaneously by United Nations teams as the military forces left the ports and the Coast Guard took over responsibility for security."

The rebels, known as Houthis, said Saturday they began the long-delayed redeployment as part of a cease-fire reached in December.

Yemen's internationally recognized government has dismissed the Houthi withdrawals as a "farce," with Information Minister Moammer al-Iryani accusing the rebels of handing the ports off to "militia leaders in civilian clothes."

The redeployment of forces from the key port of Hodeida, as well as the two smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, is seen as an important first step toward ending the civil war in Yemen, which has killed thousands of civilians, plunged the Arab world's poorest country into the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and pushed it to the brink of famine.

Hodeida is the main international entry point for 70 percent of imports and humanitarian aid to Yemen.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Iranian-backed Houthis. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

Haq said Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, head of the U.N. mission overseeing the redeployment, has made clear that the Houthi redeployments were "a unilateral step which he viewed as a way of moving forward."

"This is not a replacement for the agreed steps that need to be taken by the parties in coordination with each other" under the December redeployment agreement, Haq said. "But he views this as a way of ... hopefully getting the parties to go ahead with the steps."

"The formal verification by the United Nations of this first redeployment will take place at the three ports on Tuesday," Haq said.

He said consultations with the parties on next steps are underway, "and in the following days, activities are expected to focus on removal of military manifestations and demining."

Haq said the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, will brief the Security Council on Wednesday, and his office will meet with the Yemeni parties in the Jordanian capital of Amman on Tuesday to discuss implementation of the economic provisions of the December agreement reached in Sweden.

"Issues to be discussed will include the management of revenues from the ports of Hodeida, Ras Issa and Salif, and their use for the payment of public sector salaries in Hodeida governorate and throughout the country," he said.

Haq said Griffiths "encourages the parties to engage constructively and with good faith" to agree on the issues related to revenue from the three ports.

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