UN to report Tuesday on rebel withdrawals from 3 Yemen ports

Yemen warring parties hold fresh talks as Houthis withdraw from Hodeidah

After the government attempted to recapture the port twice, the Saudi-led coalition agreed to allow in humanitarian aid in mid-December a year ago.

Hodeida port is the main entry point for the bulk of Yemen's imports and humanitarian aid, serving as a lifeline to millions of civilians pushed to the brink of starvation by more than four years of war. Under the deal, the Yemeni government led by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi and the rebel Houthi movement agreed to a ceasefire in the key port city of Al Hodeidah, which had witnessed months of heavy fighting between the rival forces.

Haq said the United Nations 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.

The flashpoint city is the main entry point for Yemen's imports and humanitarian aid.

"UNDP is drawing upon our extensive experience, as well as national and worldwide expertise, to ensure we can fully restore the functionality of the Hodeidah ports as soon as possible", said Auke Lootsma, the agency's resident Representative in Yemen.

"Overall, the next two weeks will show if this is a handover or a yet another hangover", he told AFP.

Yemen's information minister accused the rebels of faking the pullout.

In the first stage, Houthis are to draw back five kilometers from the three ports until Tuesday, while forces of the former government, backed by troops of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), now massed four kilometers from Hudaydah, are to withdraw one kilometer from two other flash-point ports.

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The UN says aid workers have been unable to reach vast stores of grain, enough to feed 3.7 million people for an entire month, for five months up until the Stockholm agreement went into implementation two days ago.

The governor of Hodeida, Al-Hasan Taher, said Saturday the insurgents were merely reshuffling personnel.

"This is totally rejected by us, and the agreement must be implemented in full, especially with regards to the identity of the troops that will take over from the Huthis", he added.

Sources close to the Huthis said that the ports were handed over to coastguard personnel who were in charge before the rebels took over nearly five years ago.

The UN Security Council is due to hear a briefing on Hodeida on Wednesday - a day after the rebel withdrawal is expected to be completed.

However, Yemen's internationally-recognized government described the Houthis' withdrawal under a UN-brokered peace deal as "an inaccurate and misleading offer".

But although the fighting has largely stopped, there have been intermittent clashes and the promised redeployment of the warring parties away from the front lines has failed to materialise.

The Saudi-led coalition, which has been bombing the country since 2015, claims that blocking the ports would curb alleged arms-smuggling from Iran to the Houthis, but both Tehran and the rebels deny the claims.

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