HODEIDA, YEMEN — Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said that the Houthis’ withdrawal from Hodeida refuted recent allegation made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, tweeting, “Pompeo’s accusations are refuted by the steps of redeployment at the port of Hodeida and the submission of positive proposals.”
The comment from the Houthis senior-most official comes in response to a statement by Pompeo that Houthi fighters are violating a UN-brokered ceasefire in Hodieda. Al-Houthi went on to criticize Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen.
Speaking in Riyadh on Monday, Pompeo claimed that the Houthis had chosen not to comply with the Hodeida truce. “The work that was done in Sweden on Yemen was good, but both sides need to honor those commitments,” Pompeo said after talks with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. “To date, the Houthis have chosen not to do that.”
Yemen’s Houthis handed control of Hodeida to Yemen’s Coast Guard in early January, a major step toward implementing a ceasefire agreement. The United Nations welcomed the Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida. Some members of the Saudi-led coalition have claimed that the Coast Guard is loyal to Houthis; they have, however, provided no evidence to back this claim.
Meanwhile, the Houthis boycotted a meeting chaired by the head of a UN-led ceasefire monitoring team in Hodeida, accusing the head of the team of pursuing a Saudi coalition agenda.
Mohammed Abdulsalam, the Houthis’ chief negotiator, said on Sunday that retired Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert, who was chairing the meeting, “seems to be pursuing an alternative agenda,” further saying “It seems that his [Cammaert’s] tasks are greater than his capabilities.”
It is unclear who will control Hodieda’s three ports or whether the two sides will share control with UN monitors. While both sides have agreed to a UN role in the port, they differ on who should run the city, but Cammaert recently settled this argument in favor of the Saudi alliance.
A source in the negotiating committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told MintPress News that Cammaert requested that Houthi forces withdraw eight kilometers outside of Hodeida while asking Saudi Coalition forces to withdraw only half a kilometer, giving the coalition an opportunity to quickly occupy Hodeida unopposed.
Cammaert is leading a UN joint committee tasked with overseeing a truce in the western Yemeni city, a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid. “If Griffiths does not address the issue, it is going to be difficult to discuss any other matter,” Abdulsalam added.
According to the UN, the fragile ceasefire has largely held since it came into force in December, but there have been delays in the agreed upon withdrawal of the Houthis and Saudi-led coalition forces. The limited ceasefire and withdrawal, if properly implemented, could offer a potential breakthrough in a nearly four-year Saudi-led war that has brought Yemen to the brink of starvation and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A high-ranking Yemeni official told MintPress News that ” despite some violations by Saudi Arabia and its allies, the peace deal continues to stand feebly.” He underlined, however, that Yemeni army forces and allied fighters from Popular Committees are fully prepared to respond to any act of aggression committed by Saudi Arabia.
Concerns remain that the truce could effectively act as a brief and useful respite to the Saudi-led coalition from fighting and not as a stepping stone towards peace. The Saudi coalition is still operating on the premise that capturing Hodeida would be an economic and military blow to the Houthis and would ultimately weaken the group.
Meanwhile, Jordan on Tuesday accepted a UN request to host a meeting between Saudi representatives and the Houthis to discuss a prisoner swap, a Jordanian foreign ministry statement said. The deal would allow for the reunification of thousands of family members split by the Saudi war, which escalated in March 2015.
If an agreement is reached between the two sides, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will oversee the process. Prisoners would be transferred via the Sana’a airport and the Saudi-held Sayun airport.
The Yemeni military, loyal to the Houthis, has announced that 2019 will be “the year of Yemen’s drones”, saying that the nation’s military industry has made great leaps concerning the production of home-grown unmanned aerial vehicles, and that there are a large number of domestically-developed combat drones and ballistic missiles in the army’s possession.
Speaking during a press conference in the capital Sana’a on Sunday, Brigadier General Yahya Saree said that Yemeni forces have manufactured several state-of-the-art combat drones and ballistic missiles which will be put on display in the near future and confirmed that the Yemeni Army is producing more modern drones every day.
This announcement came after Yemeni armed forces launched another airstrike with the new domestically-developed Qasef K2 combat drone on Friday against Saudi soldiers in the kingdom’s southern border region of Asir, less than 24 hours after they used the same type of unmanned aerial vehicle to target a Saudi-led coalition military parade at Saudi Arabia’s al-Anad airbase in southern Yemen.
Saudi forces said that a high-ranking Yemeni intelligence official injured in the drone attack on al-Anad died in Aden on Sunday after the UAE refused to move him out of Yemen for treatment.
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