Head of UN mission monitoring Hodeidah ceasefire arrives in Yemen

Retired Dutch Major General Patrick Cammaert will first meet government officials in Aden. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 December 2018

Head of UN mission monitoring Hodeidah ceasefire arrives in Yemen

  • The UN Security Council unanimously approved the deployment of a UN advance team to monitor a cease-fire in Yemen
  • Patrick Cammaert will travel to Sana’a and then to the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah

JEDDAH: UN monitors arrived in Yemen on Saturday to monitor a fragile cease-fire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

The head of the team, retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, flew into Aden in southern Yemen, seat of the internationally recognized government backed by the Saudi-led coalition.

He will travel later to the capital, Sanaa, which is held by Iran-backed Houthi militias, and then by road to Hodeidah. Other members of the team flew directly to Sanaa from Amman in Jordan.

The sides in Yemen’s war agreed at UN-sponsored talks in Sweden 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 UN Security Council unanimously approved an initial 30-day deployment of Cammaert’s advance monitoring team. 

They will not be uniformed or armed, the UN has said, but will provide support for the management and inspections at the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, and strengthen the UN presence.

The agreement reached in Sweden, the first significant breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, is meant to pave the way for a wider cease-fire in Yemen and a second round of talks in January on a framework for political negotiations.

The UN views confidence-building measures in Hodeidah, and preventing a full-scale government and coalition military assault on the city, as a crucial first step. 

The port is the main entry point to Yemen for food and humanitarian aid, but it is also a key smuggling route for Iranian arms and ammunition to the Houthis, including parts for missiles fired at Saudi Arabia.

The Yemeni government pledged its commitment to the agreement reached in Sweden and said it would work “in a positive spirit” with UN envoy Martin Griffiths toward a lasting political agreement to end the war.

Khalid Manzalawi, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, said the UN resolution meant the Houthis “would lose their margin of maneuver.”

Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

Updated 21 March 2019

Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

  • Turkish president has threatened to "send home in coffins" visitors from Australia, New Zealand
  • Aussie and NZ leaders want Turkey to explain the "vile" and "offensive" remarks

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned on Wednesday for “vile, offensive and reckless” comments after last week’s Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks.

Australia summoned the Turkish ambassador in Canberra to explain the remarks, and New Zealand dispatched its foreign minister to Ankara to “set the record straight, face to face.”

Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he shot dead 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Erdogan, in election campaign rallies for his AK Party, urged New Zealand to restore the death penalty and said Turkey would make the killer pay if New Zealand did not.

He said anti-Muslim Australians who came to Turkey would be “sent back in coffins, like their grandfathers at Gallipoli,” and he accused Australian and New Zealand forces of invading Turkey during the First World War “because it is Muslim land.”

But an international affairs scholar in Riyadh said Erdogan’s comments should not be taken as representative of Muslims. 

"He is a propagandist and an unpredictable politician,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “He keeps saying these things and then he issues an apology. Right now, he is making these incendiary comments to win elections.”

It was inappropriate behavior for a head of state, Al-Shehri said. “Which president would use such language and issue these kind of comments?”

In his speech, Erdogan said that the Gallipoli peninsula campaign in 1915 was in fact an attempt by British colonial forces to relieve their Russian allies. The attack was a military disaster, and more than 11,000 Australian and New Zealand forces were killed. Thousands of people from both countries travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services, and the anniversary is marked on Anzac Day every April 25.

“Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after summoning the Turkish ambassador and dismissing the “excuses” offered.

“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn.” Morrison described claims about Australia and New Zealand’s response to the white supremacist attack as “vile.” He accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to forge peace between the two countries.

A memorial at Gallipoli carries Ataturk’s words: “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets ... after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

“Ataturk sought to transform his country into a modern nation and an embracing nation, and I think these comments are at odds with that spirit,” Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her deputy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters, would travel to Turkey to seek clarification of Erdogan’s comments. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” she said.