Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

Yemeni security officials said sunday, Feb. 17, 2019, that Griffiths arrived in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, to discuss the "complex situation" in and around the key port city of Hodeidah. (AP Photo/Raad Adayleh, File)
Updated 21 February 2019
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Ports deal is chance for Yemen peace talks, says UN envoy

  • Forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa
  • The second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters

NEW YORK: The expected pullout of forces from three key ports in Yemen provides an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the UN envoy for the war-battered country said on Tuesday.

Martin Griffiths told the UN Security Council that Yemen’s government and Houthi militias demonstrated that they are able to deliver on commitments they made in December in Stockholm by agreeing on the first phase of redeployment from the 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He said forces will initially be withdrawn from the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, beginning “possibly” on Tuesday or Wednesday.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.

Griffiths called on the parties to fully implement the first phase and to agree on details of the second phase of the redeployment of forces, “which we hope will lead to the demilitarization” of Hodeidah, whose port handles about 70 percent of Yemen’s commercial and humanitarian imports.

A UN official said the first phase involves pulling back several kilometers, and the second phase a withdrawal of 18 to 30 kilometers, depending on the location and fighters. In some places in Hodeidah city, the opposing forces are facing each other about 100 meters apart, the official said.

The UN is appealing for more than $4 billion to assist 15 million Yemenis this year and UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock implored donors to pledge generously at a conference next week in Geneva. 


Erdogan says 3 million refugees could be returned to Syria safe zone

Updated 33 min 16 sec ago

Erdogan says 3 million refugees could be returned to Syria safe zone

  • Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees, the highest number in the world
  • Working with the US, Turkish forces are seeking to clear a swathe of northern Syria

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip said Wednesday that up to three million Syrian refugees could be returned to a “safe zone” it is seeking to establish in northern Syria.
Turkey is home to more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees — the highest number in the world — and there have been signs of a public backlash over their presence after eight long years of war in its neighbor to the south.
Working with the United States, Turkish forces are seeking to clear a swathe of northern Syria, in part to push Kurdish rebels away from its border but also to facilitate the return of refugees.
If successful, “we will be able to house, depending on the depth of the safe zone, between two and three million Syrian refugees that are currently in Turkey and Europe,” Erdogan said in a televised speech.
Erdogan said earlier this week that he envisions the “peace corridor” as stretching right across northern Syria all the way to Deir ez-Zor and Raqqa — which he said would allow even more than three million to return.
He called for “much greater support” from Europe in realizing the plan.
For Turkey, a key priority is curbing the influence of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it sees as an off-shoot of the Kurdish separatists in its own territory.
On Wednesday, Erdogan repeated his threat to launch military attacks against the Kurds if they are not pushed back from the Turkish border by the end of the month.
“As we’ve said, if we don’t see results in the next two weeks, we will activate our plan,” he said.
But the YPG is firmly established in northern Syria and has been a crucial ally of the United States in fighting the Daesh group, creating a tricky balancing act for Washington.
Ankara says US promises to push the YPG back from the Turkish border have so far been “cosmetic.”
Turkey has twice launched unilateral operations into Syria against the YPG and Daesh group, in 2016 and 2018.