Yemen’s Houthis indicate willingness to hand over port to UN — sources

An armored vehicle of the pro-government forces drives down a main road in the Hodeidah province, 50 kilometers from the port city of Hodeidah, which the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents seized in 2014. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018

Yemen’s Houthis indicate willingness to hand over port to UN — sources

  • Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged a swift military operation without entering the city center
  • Hodeidah port is a principal entry point for relief supplies for Yemen

WASHINGTON: Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis have indicated they would be willing to hand over management of Hodeidah port to the United Nations, a potential breakthrough in a conflict that has caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, sources familiar with the efforts said.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged a swift military operation to take over the airport and seaport without entering the city center, to minimize civilian casualties and maintain the flow of essential goods.
Hodeidah port is a principal entry point for relief supplies for Yemen. UN officials have warned that large-scale fighting in the city could threaten tens of thousands.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths has been in the Houthi-controlled Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, this week to try to negotiate a solution.
Deputy US Secretary of State John Sullivan and the head of the US Agency for International Development, Mark Green, met on Thursday with international and non-governmental agencies to discuss the port conflict, the State Department said.
At the meeting, Sullivan endorsed “Griffiths’ efforts to avoid an escalation in fighting by brokering a compromise over the management of the port” and underscored the US commitment to a political solution, the department said in a statement.
A diplomatic source at the United Nations said the coalition had informed Griffiths it would study the proposal.
The source said the Houthis indicated they would accept overall UN rule for port management and inspections.
A Western diplomat said the United Nations would oversee income from the port and make sure it gets to Yemen’s central bank. The understanding is for Yemeni state employees to remain working alongside the United Nations.
The sources cautioned that the plan still needed agreement from all sides to the conflict, and would not, at least in its initial stages, result in an immediate cease-fire.
In a statement on Thursday, Griffiths said he was “encouraged by the constructive engagement” of the Houthis and would be holding meetings with Yemen’s internationally backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
There was no immediate comment from the Saudi and Emirati embassies in Washington. Houthi representatives could not be reached for immediate comment.
Questions remain over the withdrawal of the Houthis from Hodeidah city itself, as the Emirates and their Yemeni allies have demanded, as well as over a broader cease-fire, the Western diplomat said.
Securing an agreement on leaving the city could be “one of the major sticking points,” the Western diplomat said.
Speaking earlier at the United Nations, Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, reiterated the coalition’s demand that the Houthis quit the city entirely, while citing Griffiths’ slow progress.
“On the ground, what we are offering is for the Houthis to hand over their weapons to the government of Yemen and to leave, to leave peacefully and to provide information about the locations of the mines and improvised explosive devices and so forth,” Mouallimi said.

Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

Updated 15 November 2018

Lebanon bank deposits up 4% on year

BEIRUT: Bank deposits in Lebanon have risen by 4 percent on the year, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Thursday, and he maintained his economic growth outlook for 2018 at 2 percent.

In July Salameh had said he expected bank deposits to grow by more than 5 percent in 2018.

In October the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) halved their growth outlook to one percent for Lebanon, where public debt is about 150 percent of gross domestic product.

“Lebanese banks have succeeded in maintaining foreign exchange inflows into their sector supported by (the central bank),” Salmeh said in a televised speech at a Beirut economic conference.

With growth low and traditional sources of foreign exchange — tourism, real estate and foreign investment — undermined by years of regional tension, Lebanon increasingly relies on dollars expatriate Lebanese deposit in local banks.

The banks buy government debt, which finances the country’s eye-watering public debt and twin deficits.

The central bank also brings in dollars through complex financial operations with local banks to boost foreign currency reserves needed to defend the Lebanese pound’s peg to the dollar.

However, deposits have been growing at a slower rate since war broke out in neighboring Syria in 2011, and deposit growth rates are closely watched.