UN Yemen envoy: Next negotiation stage depends on success of redeployment in Hodeidah

Martin Griffiths (C), the UN special envoy for Yemen, arrives at Sanaa international airport in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2019

UN Yemen envoy: Next negotiation stage depends on success of redeployment in Hodeidah

LONDON: The next round of negotiations on the Yemen crisis depends on the success of redeploying troops from Hodeidah, the UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said Friday. 

Under a ceasefire agreement in December, the Houthi militants were meant to withdraw from position in the port city that has become the focal point of the war.

Griffiths said he was working hard to overcome all obstacles in releasing Yemeni prisoners, and that slow but steady progress is being made to stop the conflict in Yemen.

The UN envoy added during an interview on Al Arabiya TV that he was confident direct negotiations between parties involved in the conflict would take place, and that it is very important that the first stage of redepolyment in Hodeidah is implemented successfully.  

He explained that redeployment in Hodeidah includes the withdrawal of Houthi militias from the ports of Ras Issa and Salif, noting that "Yemeni parties want to implement the (Stockholm) agreement, but they need a scheme from the monitoring committee."

Meanwhile, the coordinator of the panel of experts on Yemen Ahmed Himmiche said that smugglers and fictitious companies are working with the Houthis to transport oil from Iran.

Griffiths told the UN Security Council on Tuesday that Yemen’s government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and an Arab coalition, and the Houthi militias have demonstrated that they are able to deliver on commitments they made in December in Stockholm by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from three key ports.

He said forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, beginning “possibly” on Tuesday or Wednesday. This will be followed by a pullout from the major port of Hodeidah and critical parts of the city that will allow access to the Red Sea Mills, a major UN storage facility holding enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, he said.

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 51 min 50 sec ago

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.