Yemeni government, Houthis meet aboard UN ship to discuss Sweden agreement

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The head of the UN mission in Yemen launched talks between the government and Houthi militias aboard a boat in the Red Sea on Sunday aimed at shoring up a ceasefire, a government official said.

Retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert chaired the meeting aboard a UN vessel docked off the coast of the flashpoint city of Hodeidah after the militias refused to hold talks in government-held areas, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said the meeting would address the implementation of an agreement reached in Sweden in December that calls for a ceasefire in Hodeidah, a pullback of forces from the port city and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

The Red Sea port is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions.

The UN said in a statement that the parties would resume discussions on the Sweden agreement on Sunday.

It is the third meeting of a joint committee on implementing the deal, which has been hailed as a major step toward ending Yemen’s four-year war.

The Houthi militias have been accused of violating the ceasefire, while deadlines for the pullback of forces and a prisoner swap have slipped.

UN aid agencies are also trying to gain access to food warehouses in Hodeidah that will first require demining teams to clear routes to the storage sites.

The last joint meeting of the truce committee was on January 3.

Up to 75 observers from the UN mission are to be deployed in Hodeidah and surrounding ports, but so far only about 20 monitors are on the ground monitoring the ceasefire, according to UN officials.

Cammaert will be replaced in the coming weeks by Danish general Michael Lollesgaard as head of the UN observer mission, which was created by the Security Council last month.