Yemen truce, prisoner swap timelines pushed back: UN

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The UN envoy for Yemen said Monday the expected timeline for a truce in the flashpoint city of Hodeidah and a prisoner swap between warring parties had been pushed back.

Envoy Martin Griffiths hosted hard-won peace talks between the Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Houthi militias in Sweden last month.

The two parties, who have been at war for four years, agreed at the talks to a mass prisoner swap and an ambitious ceasefire pact in Hodeidah, the Red Sea city home to the impoverished country’s most valuable port.

Griffiths, who arrived Monday in Sanaa on his third trip to Yemen this month, said there had been “changes in timelines” for both deals.

“That momentum is still there, even if we have seen the timelines for implementation extended, both in Hodeidah and with regard to the prisoner exchange agreement,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“Yet such changes in timelines are expected, in light of the facts that the timelines were rather ambitious and we are dealing with a complex situation on the ground.”

Griffiths also confirmed reports of plans to replace retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who heads the monitoring team tasked with overseeing the Hodeidah truce.

“General Cammaert’s plan was to stay in Yemen for a rather short period of time to... lay the ground for establishing the Hodeidah mission,” he said.

“All the speculations about other reasons for General Patrick’s departure are not accurate.”

Cammaert arrived Saturday in Yemen.

The Houthis, who control Hodeidah, have accused Cammaert of not being up to the task and of pursuing “other agendas”.

Hodeidah was for months the main front line in the Yemen war. But a precarious calm has largely held in the city since the ceasefire agreement came into force on December 18.

The Hodeidah agreement stipulates a full ceasefire, followed by the withdrawal and redeployment of rival forces from the city -- two clauses that have yet to be fulfilled.

Griffiths said on Monday another round of consultations was temporarily on hold pending progress on the current agreements. Earlier this month he had said that planned talks had been postponed until February.

“We are all on the same page that we need to see progress in implementing what was agreed in Sweden before convening the next round of consultations,” Griffiths said.