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
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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.”


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 35 min 23 sec ago
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.