The head of a United Nations advance team tasked with monitoring a ceasefire between the Iranian-aligned Houthi group and Saudi-backed government forces in Yemen’s Hodeidah has arrived in Yemen, U.N. and local officials said on Saturday.
The sides in Yemen’s nearly four-year war agreed during U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden earlier this month to stop fighting in Hodeidah city and its province and withdraw forces. The truce began on Tuesday but skirmishes continued on the outskirts of the city.
On Friday the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved the deployment – for an initial 30 days – of an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Upon arriving at Aden airport, Cammaert met with officials from the Saudi-backed government, local officials said, and he is expected to continue to Sanaa where he will meet Houthi officials.
He will then travel to Hodeidah where he will oversee the truce and troop withdrawal from Hodeidah city and three ports. Cammaert’s team will not be uniformed or armed, the U.N has said, but it will provide support for the management of and inspections at the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa; and strengthen the U.N. presence in the war-torn region.
Hodeidah, the main port used to feed Yemen’s 30 million people, has been the focus of fighting this year, raising fears abroad that a full-scale assault could cut off supplies to nearly 16 million people suffering from severe hunger.
Sweden’s agreement, the first significant breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, is meant to pave the way for a wider ceasefire in the impoverished country and a second round of talks in January on a framework for political negotiations.
A Sunni Muslim Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates entered the war in 2015 against the Houthis to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from the capital Sanaa.
The Houthis control most urban centres, including Sanaa, while Hadi’s government is based in the southern port of Aden.