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Yemen, Saudi Arabia and UAE ask UN to pressure Houthis on ceasefire deal

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Yemen’s government and its allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates asked the UN Security Council on Thursday to turn up the pressure on Houthi rebels to uphold a ceasefire deal.

In a letter sent to the council, the three governments accused the Houthis of violating the ceasefire in the port city of Hodeida 970 times since it came into force on December 18.

They asked the council to “impress upon the Houthis, and their Iranian backers, that they will be held responsible if their continued failure to comply... leads to the collapse of the Stockholm agreement,” said the letter seen by AFP.

Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Houthis agreed to the ceasefire and a redeployment of forces from Hodeida during UN-brokered talks in Sweden last month. But deadlines for the pullback of forces and a prisoner swap have slipped, fueling worries that the Stockholm agreement may be in jeopardy.

UAE minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday to discuss problems in implementing the Stockholm deal. “We understand that we need to exercise patience, but it can't be infinite,” Gargash told reporters after this meeting.

Gargash raised concerns of a flare-up on the ground, triggered by a Houthi provocation. “We do not want to launch an offensive” in Hodeida, said the minister.

“What we want is for the UN and the international community to exert influence and to do that work” and create pressure on the Houthis to comply with the ceasefire deal, he said. The Houthis have accused the Saudi-led coalition of violating its commitments under the Stockholm agreement.

The council met behind closed doors to hear a report from UN envoy Martin Griffiths who has wrapped up a new round of shuttle diplomacy. For nearly four years, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have been locked in a war with a regional pro-government alliance led by Riyadh.

The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of starvation.

Houthi drone storage site attacked

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has attacked a site east of the capital Sanaa which the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement used to store drones, Saudi news agency SPA said on Thursday.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki was quoted as saying the bombardment was part of a two-week-old operation to destroy the Houthis’ drone capabilities following a deadly drone attack on a Yemeni government military parade.

A senior official of the United Arab Emirates said on Wednesday the coalition, which also includes the UAE, was prepared to use “calibrated force” to push the Houthis to withdraw from Hodeidah port city under a UN-sponsored deal

Yemen’s civil war pits the Houthis against the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from power in late 2014. The conflict has killed tens of thousands of Yemenis and left millions on the brink of starvation.

The United Nations is trying to implement a ceasefire and troop withdrawal agreement in Hodeidah, the main entry point for most of Yemen’s imports and aid.

The truce has largely held in the city, which is controlled by the Houthis with thousands of coalition-backed forces massed on the outskirts. In other areas of Yemen, the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation, fighting has escalated, including in Sanaa.