UN Security Council in talks on saving Yemen truce deal

UN Security Council in talks on saving Yemen truce deal
New York (AFP): The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors on Wednesday to try to salvage a stalled truce deal in Yemen seen as crucial to diplomatic efforts to end the devastating war.

Yemen's government and its Saudi and Emirati allies agreed in talks with Huthi rebels nearly a month ago to redeploy their forces from the flashpoint city of Hodeida, but nothing has happened on the ground.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths told the council that he was "still working with the parties to make the redeployment in Hodeida a reality," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

The pullback was agreed in December under a ceasefire deal reached in Sweden that offered the best hope in years of moving toward an end to the conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

Details of a two-stage pullback from Hodeida city and its ports were finalized during a meeting between the government and the Huthis on February 17, marking the first concrete step toward de-escalation.

UN diplomats said the Huthis were refusing to pull away from the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa as part of the first stage, citing fears that forces linked to the Saudi-led coalition will move in to take over those facilities.

"It s clear that one party has more problems than the other at the moment, but this tends to swing around," British Ambassador Karen Pierce told reporters after the meeting.

General Michael Lollesgaard, who also briefed the council as head of a newly-created UN mission to monitor the redeployment from Hodeida, will hold meetings in the coming days to push for action on the ground, diplomats said.

The Security Council will meet again on Tuesday to take stock and consider a tougher stance if no progress is made.

"If there isn t progress and if Stockholm does collapse, the Security Council will need to think about further measures and that is a very big step," Pierce said in an interview to Al-Arabiya television.

On Tuesday, the ambassadors in Yemen of the permanent council members -- Britain, France, China, Russia and the United States -- said they were "extremely concerned" that agreements had not been implemented.

The pullback should begin "without further delay and without seeking to exploit the redeployments by the other side," they said in a joint statement.

With Hodeida peace efforts stalled, fighting in northern Hajjah province escalated this week, with 12 children and 10 women killed during two days of strikes, the UN humanitarian coordinator said.

The Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen will enter its fifth year later this month, with millions of civilians facing famine.

The conflict has unleashed the world s worst humanitarian conflict.