‘Hope for further Yemen negotiations,’ UN envoy tells Security Council

The Hodeidah ceasefire was implemented after talks in Sweden. (AFP file photo)
Updated 10 January 2019
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‘Hope for further Yemen negotiations,’ UN envoy tells Security Council

  • The briefing was the first since the agreement struck during talks in Sweden last month swung into effect
  • A meeting will be held in Amman next week to follow up on an agreed prisoner swap

LONDON: UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told the Security Council on Wednesday that both sides have largely stuck to the Hodeidah ceasefire and there has been a significant decrease in hostilities.

The briefing was the first since the agreement struck during talks in Sweden last month swung into effect.

The internationally recognized Yemeni government and the Arab coalition providing it military support against enemy Houthi militants, have accused the Iran-backed group of dozens of violations of the ceasefire.

And while Griffiths acknowledged their had been some problems but he was still “hopeful” that further negotiations will be held “in the near future.”

Talks are ongoing on a redeployment of forces from Hodeidah, providing security in the city and opening up access routes to allow humanitarian convoys to reach millions in dire need of food aid, he added.

A meeting will be held in Amman next week to follow up on an agreed prisoner swap that could pave the way to an airlift of "many, many thousands" of detainees from both sides.

"It is my view and it is shared by the leadership of both parties, but also others, that substantial progress, particularly on Hodeida of course, is something that we would like to see before we reconvene the next consultations," said Griffiths.

Griffiths briefed the Security Council after a round of shuttle diplomacy in the region including talks with militia leaders in Sanaa and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in Riyadh on shoring up the ceasefire deal.

The United Nations is working to schedule a new round of talks, possibly in Kuwait, to build on the Stockholm agreement and advance toward a final deal to end the conflict.

The war between the Houthis and troops loyal to the government started when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The conflict has unleashed the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, which says 80 percent of the population are in need of aid.

Nearly 10 million people are just one step away from famine, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told the council.

"Millions of Yemenis are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago," said Lowcock, who stressed that while the political process was important "it does not in itself feed a single starving child.”

The Security Council is considering the creation of a new observer mission to Yemen to monitor the ceasefire in Hodeida, oversee the pullback of forces and allow the delivery of humanitarian aid.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has proposed the deployment of up to 75 observers to Yemen for an initial period of six months to shore up the ceasefire while talks on a broader peace deal are held.

An advance team of about 16 international monitors, led by Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, has been deployed in Yemen, under a resolution adopted last month that endorsed the Stockholm agreement.

*With AFP


US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

Updated 53 min 54 sec ago
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US has ‘no plan’ as Syria pullout proceeds: ex-envoy

  • Former envoy Brett McGurk says the absence of a plan is increasing the risk to US forces
  • Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, Daesh had been defeated

WASHINGTON: The United States has no plan for Syria as it proceeds with President Donald Trump’s order to pull American troops out of the country, a top official who quit in protest at the policy said on Sunday.
Brett McGurk, who was America’s envoy to the US-led global coalition against the Daesh group, said “there’s no plan for what’s coming next” and this is increasing the risk to US forces.
He spoke in an interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation,” after a suicide bomber on Wednesday killed four Americans and 15 others in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. It was the deadliest attack to hit US troops since they deployed to Syria in 2014 to assist local forces against the Daesh group.
The bombing came after Trump’s announcement last month that he was ordering a full withdrawal of the 2,000 US troops from Syria, shocking allies and leading to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis as well as McGurk.
Senior US officials have since given contradictory statements about US intentions, but the Pentagon said it had begun the withdrawal, although how long it would take remained uncertain.
“The president has made that clear — we are leaving. And that means our force should be really with one mission: to get out and get out safely,” McGurk told “Face the Nation.”
But he added: “Right now we do not have a plan. It increases a vulnerability of our force... It is increasing the risk to our people on the ground in Syria and will open up space for Daesh,” another acronym for IS.
Most importantly, said McGurk, the US cannot expect “a partner” such as NATO-ally Turkey to take the place of the United States.
“That is not realistic. And if our forces are under order to withdraw, as at the same time they are trying to find some formula for another coalition partner to come in, that is not workable. That is not a viable plan.”
Trump announced the US withdrawal because, he said, IS had been defeated — something McGurk and other experts dispute.
McGurk has previously warned that the US pullout would shore up Syria’s President Bashar Assad and lessen America’s leverage with Russia and Iran.