Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels have agreed on the first phase of a pullback of forces from the key city of Hodeidah, in a deal the United Nations described Sunday as important progress.
The redeployment from Hodeidah was a key provision of a ceasefire deal reached in December in Sweden, but deadlines to move forces away from the ports and parts of city have been missed.
The Red Sea port is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Following two days of talks in Hodeidah city, the government and Houthis finalized a deal on the first phase of the pullback and also agreed in principle on the second phase, a UN statement said.
The talks were led by Danish General Michael Lollesgaard as chair of a redeployment coordination committee (RCC) that includes the government and the Houthis.
“After lengthy but constructive discussions facilitated by the RCC Chair, the parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces,” said the UN statement.
The sides made “important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces” but no date was given to begin the demilitarization.
“The parties also agreed, in principle, on Phase 2 of the mutual redeployment, pending additional consultations within their respective leadership.”
The first phase provides for a pullback from the ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, Ras Issa and from parts of the city where there are humanitarian facilities.
The United Nations is hoping that a de-escalation in Hodeidah will allow desperately-needed food and medical aid to reach millions on the brink of starvation in Yemen.
A new round is planned within a week to finalize details on the second phase of redeployment, the UN statement said.
The ceasefire and a Hodeidah pullback agreed in Stockholm have been hailed as a major step toward ending Yemen’s nearly four-year war.
The talks on Saturday and Sunday were the fourth meeting held between the sides to try to agree on the modalities of the pullback of forces since the ceasefire came into force on December 18.