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Yemen coalition alarmed at Houthi cease-fire violations

February 2, 2019

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Yemen’s government and its key coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates expressed “growing alarm” at what they say are “persistent, deliberate violations” by rival Houthi Shiite rebels of the December cease-fire agreement in the key port of Hodeida.

Ambassadors of the three countries said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council obtained Friday by The Associated Press that they are also alarmed at the Houthis’ refusal to redeploy troops from the port area and allow a free flow of humanitarian aid, as called for the in the Dec. 13 agreement signed in Stockholm, Sweden.

The coalition partners said they remain committed to the U.N.-facilitated deal and urged council members “to do everything in their power to demand that the Iran-backed Houthis comply with the terms of the Stockholm agreement.”

They warned that if the Houthis fail to comply “they will be held responsible” for the collapse of the Stockholm agreement.

The letter lists what it says were 970 Houthi violations between Dec. 18 and Jan. 29 that killed 71 people and wounded 534.

The coalition’s assessment of the cease-fire differed sharply from the U.N.’s.

Kuwait’s U.N. Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said the U.N. envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told the Security Council in a closed briefing Thursday that he “is optimistic” the cease-fire in Hodeida is holding despite some violations. He said Griffiths also cited statements from Yemen’s government and Houthi Shiite rebels that they are committed to redeploying their forces.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric reiterated Friday that Griffiths and the outgoing head of the U.N. operation monitoring the cease-fire, Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, “have said publicly that the cease-fire is generally holding.”

The coalition partners warned, however, that the Houthis’ failure to implement the Stockholm agreement could end prospects for peace.

“The coalition believes that the Stockholm agreement should be the beginning of a series of agreements to end the conflict in Yemen,” they said.

“If the purpose and spirit of the Stockholm agreement continue to be disregarded by one side in the conflict, the prospects for a peaceful solution will continue to remain elusive,” the ambassadors of the three countries said.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital Sanaa by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Hadi’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia and targeted vessels in the Red Sea.

The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has taken a terrible toll on civilians, with thousands killed and a catastrophic humanitarian crisis under way. Millions suffer from food and medical care shortages and the country has been pushed to the brink of famine.

The coalition ambassadors said their airstrikes against 10 “military objectives” on Jan. 30 were outside the cease-fire area, and were aimed “to apply carefully calibrated pressure and convince the Houthis to reconsider their options and start engaging seriously in the process agreed in Stockholm.”

Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, called the Stockholm agreement “a breakthrough” in efforts to end the war.

“We do not want to launch an offensive,” he told several journalists on Thursday. “What we want is for the U.N. and the international community to exert influence and to do that work” of pressuring the Houthis to comply with the agreement as a first step to end the war.

“We understand that we need to exercise patience, but it can’t be infinite,” Gargash said.

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