Ceasefire for Hodeidah agreed at peace talks: UN

Yemen's foreign minister Khaled Al-Yamani (2ndL) and rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam (R) shake hands under the eyes of the UN's Antonio Guterres (C), Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallström (L) and UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (R), during peace consultations taking place in Rimbo, Sweden, on December 13, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2018

Ceasefire for Hodeidah agreed at peace talks: UN

  • The agreement between Yemen’s warring parties included the deployment of neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors.
  • Guterres: Consensus has been reached regarding aid delivery to Taiz

LONDON: A ceasefire agreement has been reached with respect to the city of Hodeidah and its port, the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres announced Thursday at a press conference at the end of peace talks on Yemen.
Guterres added that the agreement between Yemen’s warring parties included the deployment of neutral forces and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. A political framework will be discussed in a next round of meetings scheduled for January.

The withdrawal of armed forces from the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, a vital aid route caught up in the fighting, will happen "within days," UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths said.
"The design of the withdrawal is first from the three ports, within days, then from the city," Griffiths told reporters, referring to the Yemeni ports of Hodeidah, Salif, and, Ras Isa. 
The pullout, which will open a road cutting across Hodeida crucial to humanitarian aid delivery, "has been agreed by both sides", Griffiths said.

Guterres also said that consensus has been reached regarding aid delivery to Taiz. 

The Saudi ambassador to Yemen Mohammed Al-Jaber said that the agreement includes a Houthi withdrawal from Taiz and the release of thousands of detainees. 
Mohammed Al-Jaber said the agreements, which have not been released to the public in full after talks in Sweden, required the Houthis "withdrawing from the city and port of Hodeidah, as well as Taiz, and the release of thousands of detainees and prisoners."

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash welcomed the agreement between Yemen's warring parties to a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Thursday.
"Encouraging news today from Sweden. Important political progress made including the status of Hodeidah. The Coalition & Yemeni forces' military pressure enabled this significant breakthrough," Gargash said in a tweet.


Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani and Houthi negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam shook hands to loud applause at the close of UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden, as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and special envoy Martin Griffiths looked on smiling.

Al-Yamani welcomed the UN-backed agreement reached at peace talks in Sweden regarding the port city of Hodeidah.
But Yamani, speaking at the end of the talks near Stockholm, said he regretted that the consultations had not resulted in a significant agreement to improve Yemen's economy which has collapsed after nearly four years of war.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, welcomed the United Nations backed agreement between Yemen's warring parties to a ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah on Thursday.
"The agreement announced today will help bring back security to the region including the security of the Red Sea, a vital water way for international trade," he said on his twitter account, adding that he hoped Iran-allied Houthis would stop "working on behalf of the Iranian regime’s interests".

Prince Khalid bin Salman added that the Kingdom welcomes the Hodeidah agreement and praises the UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths for his efforts. He continued by saying that the Houthi militia agreed to withdraw from Hodeidah after military pressure was applied.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said that Saudi Arabia’s support will enable the government to overcome difficulties and restore stability in the country. 

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that the agreement between the “Yemeni Government and the Houthis is an important step towards ending the conflict in Yemen - the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today.”

“We have been working with the United Nations to bring the two sides in this terrible conflict together for the first time in years, including through constructive talks with key Saudis and Emiratis during my recent visits, and regular discussions with Oman.


UN chief Antonio Guterres led his mediators on Thursday in a last-minute push for a truce in Yemen's war as the Houthis and the government wrangled over Hodeidah port and Sanaa airport.
The warring parties have been in the rural Swedish village of Rimbofor UN-brokered talks, now in their seventh day, working for an agreement on key issues including a cessation.

Earlier, Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the outcome of Yemen’s peace consultations will be conveyed to the UN Security Council on Friday.

The consultations, which started last week near Stockholm, took place in “positive spirit and good faith,” she said in a telephone interview with Reuters.


Israel holds largest military drill amid US-Iran tensions

Updated 8 min 46 sec ago

Israel holds largest military drill amid US-Iran tensions

  • The Israeli military said the four-day exercise had been planned long in advance

JERUSALEM: Israel wrapped up its largest military drill in years on Wednesday, with thousands of troops from the army, navy and air force simulating a future war with the militant Lebanese Hezbollah group amid fears that Iran would draw its Shiite proxy into the recent growing tensions in the Arabian Gulf.

The Israeli military said the four-day exercise had been planned long in advance and focused on the immersion of all branches against threats emanating from Israel’s north. It included a large deployment of unmanned aircraft and the first use of the F-35 stealth fighter planes to prepare for scenarios of missile attacks and underground infiltrations from Lebanon.

But rising tensions between Iran and the US clearly served as a backdrop.

Iran recently announced it was breaking its compliance with the nuclear deal with world powers amid the renewal of crippling American sanctions. The Trump administration has ordered 1,000 more troops to the Middle East amid accusations that Iran was behind a series of strikes against oil tankers near the Arabian Gulf.

Israeli officials fear Iran may try to mobilize Hezbollah as its most potent tool against Israel in a confrontation. Israel has long identified Iran as its greatest threat, citing its suspect nuclear program, development of long-range missiles and hostile rhetoric.

The Lebanese militant group battled Israel to a stalemate in a month-long war in 2006 and has since gained valuable battle experience in the Syrian civil war. Over the past 13 years, Israel has carried out dozens of airstrikes against suspected weapons shipments from Iran through Syria to Lebanon and has engaged in several dust ups. But its field training has been primarily aimed toward delivering a far more decisive victory in its next full-scale war with Hezbollah.

Though the military would not mention it by name, Hezbollah was clearly the central focus of the drill.

“I am very impressed by the improvement in readiness, by the fighting spirit of the soldiers and commanders, and mainly by the destructive power,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as he attended part of the drill. “I say to our enemies: The (military) has very great destructive power. Don’t test us.”

Netanyahu, who has been a vocal critic of Iran over the years, has been uncharacteristically quiet throughout the latest escalation in the Arabian Gulf.

Speaking Tuesday, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin was far more specific in identifying the threat.

“We caution Hezbollah not to subordinate Lebanon to Iran’s agenda, and we caution Lebanon not to be used as a launching pad for attacks against Israel,” Rivlin said. “We are not happy to go to war, but the military is fully prepared to respond to any threat and any scenario.”

The drill in northern Israel featured the country’s ever-growing arsenal of unmanned aircraft, already deployed continuously in reconnaissance missions along Israel’s borders.

Though never confirmed by Israel, the drones are also suspected of being able to carry out surgical aerial strikes that have lightened the load of Israel’s fleet of fighter jets. Able to carry out missions that would be more challenging and perilous to manned flight, the drones look to play a major role in any future war with Hezbollah, said Capt. M, the deputy commander of the Black Snake Drone Squadron, who could only be identified by his first initial according to military protocol.

“The north is a more complex fighting arena,” he said. “We are preparing for a prolonged round of fighting and the drones are an integral part of it.”

Israel’s multi-layer aerial defense systems were also being integrated into the drill, with the assumption that a war would entail massive missile fire toward all parts of the country. The Arrow rocket system is designed to intercept the longest-range missiles, including outside the atmosphere.

“Arrow was certainly developed to defend from the Iranian threat,” said Maj. Rimon Weiss, an Arrow missile commander.