LONDON: Yemen is moving toward a more peaceful situation, but requires warring sides to come to an agreement on operations if the war is to end and a resolution is reached, the chairman of the UN’s Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in the crucial port city of Hodeidah has said.
Lt. Gen. (retired) Abhijit Guha told Arabic newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat that factions needed to reach an agreement about local security forces.
The war in Yemen began after Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 from the internationally recognized government and launched an offensive across the country. A coalition including Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in 2015 after the militants invaded the city of Aden.
Under a deal reached in Stockholm in Dec. 2018 the UN Security Council authorized the deployment of a team to monitor and support a cease-fire and redeployment of forces from Hodeidah.
The city was for months the main frontline in the war after government forces, supported by the coalition, sought to capture it.
The Stockholm Agreement stipulates a full cease-fire, followed by the withdrawal and redeployment of rival forces from the city. But these clauses have yet to be fulfilled and the withdrawal is at a stalemate, with both sides blaming the other for its delay.
The UN has been criticized for its refusal to blame anyone for the current obstruction of redeployment in Hodeidah, but Guha said
it was essential that the UN remained neutral.
The UN’s role was to work with both parties, stay the course, and help bridge the gap wherever necessary and to implement the redeployment in a satisfactory way to both parties, and of course, most importantly, to the people of Yemen, he added.
The former military man chaired his first RCC meeting on Dec. 18 and 19, telling the newspaper he was encouraged by the initial responses from both parties. He proposed to move between Mocha and the capital to finalize issues, so that a “common military concept” of operations for the redeployment process could be established.
“Of course, the actual redeployment would only be possible once the issue of the local security force is politically discussed and resolved,” he added.
“To me, the issue of the local security force is one of a political nature, and will have to be resolved by the political leadership of both parties. And I feel when the moment is right, they would resolve this issue. But till then, it is incumbent on me to prepare and be ready for it by having a concept of operations to be followed when this time comes.”
Both parties had committed to adhere to the cease-fires, said Guha, but there was a lot of mistrust as a result of the long conflict. He pointed out, however, that there had been no offensive since the agreement was signed and that there had been “significant de-escalation” compared to how things were previously. “I believe both parties are sincere in their hope to end the war. So, all of this gives me a lot of hope.”
He highlighted other key areas for activity and attention, including relief work.
“We have generally found that people are most keen on this (facilitating humanitarian access), and I am sure that this movement would be possible in a more regulated way, not that it’s not happening now, but it will be happening in a more regulated way. The third issue is the issue of improving the movement of civilians across frontlines. This is an issue which both sides have shown keenness about, and I’m sure we will be able to implement this also in
He described Yemen as a “laboratory of the world” for its position as a crossroads between civilizations, trade and world affairs, saying he would like to see what was believed to be the world’s first irrigation system in the south of Yemen.
Guha also had words for Yemenis. “I think my message to them is that you are the people who brought us into this world. It was through you that humanity spread. And we owe it to you to give you peace.”