UAE blasts Houthis for disregarding Hodeidah ceasefire and blocking Yemen aid access

UAE blasts Houthis for disregarding Hodeidah ceasefire and blocking Yemen aid access
Houthi militants patrolling a street in Hodeidah in December. The militia is blocking access to crucial food supplies in the city. (Reuters)
Updated 09 February 2019

UAE blasts Houthis for disregarding Hodeidah ceasefire and blocking Yemen aid access

UAE blasts Houthis for disregarding Hodeidah ceasefire and blocking Yemen aid access
  • UAE minister says Houthi’s are the real impediment to peace in Yemen
  • Red Sea Mills in Hodeidah contains enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month

DUBAI: The UAE has accused the Houthis of disregarding a Yemen ceasefire agreement after the UN slammed the militants for blocking access to vast food supplies.

The Red Sea Mills in Hodeidah contains enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, but aid officials have been unable to access the stores since September, despite Yemen’s desperate food shortages.

Houthi militants have  blocked the UN from reaching the food and last month destroyed some of the stores with shelling.

Mark Lowcock, under-secretary of the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), on Thursday implored the Iran—backed Houthis to allow access to the stores.

Anwar Garagsh, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, said on Friday that the UN’s plea for access to the stores showed that “the Houthi’s are the real impediment to peace in Yemen.” 

“This will be clearer with their every move to derail the political process,” Gargash said on Twitter.

“The Stockholm Agreement offers us a unique opportunity to end the war in Yemen. 

“Nonetheless the Houthis are working hard to undermine this opportunity by their obstinate disregard to their commitments.”

Gargash said the way forward for the Houthis is to withdraw from “the ports and Hodaidah city” as per the agreement signed in December. 

“The militia is dragging its feet & threatening the overall prospects for peace,” he added.

Talks were held this week in Hodeidah in an attempt to find a breakthrough in implementing the agreement. Mediators said Friday that talks in Jordan on a prisoner swap deal had made "important progress."
The huge prisoner exchange is seen as a crucial confidence-building measure in the UN-led push for peace.

The city of Hodeidah became the main front in the war, which was sparked when the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

Pro-government forces supported by an Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, had surrounded the city and prepared to retake it last summer. 

Hodeidah serves as the country’s main port for aid supplies but the UN and the coalition accuse the Houthis of blocking those supplies from reaching those desperately in need.

“Access to the mills grows ever more urgent as time passes and the risk of spoilage to the remaining grain increases,” Lowcock said in his statement.

“I implore all parties, in particular Ansar Allah affiliated groups, to finalize an agreement and facilitate access to the mills in the coming days,” he said, referring to the Houthi’s political wing.

The UN has described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian emergency, with 10 million people on the brink of famine.