In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said that he hopes and believes that the Hodeidah redeployments will happen within the next day or two, which will facilitate access to 51,000 metric tons of wheat for Yemenis.
“Hodeidah is the central gravity of this war, and the humanitarian hub that is needed for aid to reach all Yemenis,” Griffiths said, “I am hoping and believing that this will happen within the next day or two.”
Earlier this week, the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels have agreed to implement the first phase of forces withdrawal from Hodeidah, which includes the redeployment of Houthis out of the three northern ports of Ras Issa, Salif, and Hodeidah, in addition to redeployments of both parties to the north and south to facilitate access to Red Sea Mills, which has food aid sufficient for 3.7 million starving Yemenis.
During the interview, Griffiths expressed confidence and optimism in the redeployments happening soon, despite previous continuous Houthi violations of the Sweden deal, which stated a ceasefire in the port city of Hodeidah.
Replying to a question on Houthis not committing to deals, Griffiths said that “the leaders of these parties are very committed to making this happen, but it is not simple.”
The UN envoy described the second phase of the agreement to be more important than the first phase, saying that it demilitarizes the city and facilitates the civilians’ return to a peaceful life.
Prisoners’ release agreement
“Getting all prisoners out, and that is our ambition and aspiration, doesn’t mean they all have to come out today,” Griffiths said when asked about the delay of progress.
The UN envoy spoke of a proposal on the negotiations table which is being discussed between the warring parties and said that “it will provide for the release of a significant number.”
On non-Yemeni prisoners from governments friendly to Yemen’s, Griffiths assured fair treatment, citing an incident in which a Saudi prisoner was released unconditionally due to tragic illness. He added that the act was equaled with the generosity and nobility of releasing seven Houthi rebels.
Griffiths said: “I just hope that we can see that magic day soon when there will be that airlift of released prisoners going from one side to the other.”
Taiz stuck in battle gridlock
In the interview, Griffiths said the southwestern Yemeni city of Taiz is a major population center and has been stuck in this gridlock of a battle for years.
According to Griffiths, the main focus in Taiz “is to allow the free passage of people to go from home to work and back, or down that road,” and to allow the free passage of goods, “both commercial and humanitarian, which are impeded or blocked by those same battle lines.”
Explaining the process, Griffiths’ plan is to start small by opening some of the humanitarian corridors that exist and have been identified, to later plan a local ceasefire with the involvement of civil society and women’s groups.
This week, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced that it will resume its work in the Yemeni governorate of Taiz after some of its projects had been on hold in the city, which reiterates hope in the small steps Griffiths described.
Griffiths said there will be a conference by the Secretary-General of the UN in Geneva on February 26 which will be seeking to raise $4 billion for the UN’s humanitarian aid program for this year.
Since 2014, Saudi Arabia has contributed more than $13 billion in support of Yemen, spokesman of the Arab Coalition supporting the legitimate government of Yemen, Col. Turki al-Maliki, said this week during a press conference in Riyadh.
Progress being made
The UN special envoy noted that progress was being made. “We are slowly making progress. We need to find a safe place for the two sides to meet, and to narrow down our aspirations to something small that can be done quickly.”
Griffiths concluded the interview by reaffirming his position in resolving the conflict. “My business is getting this conflict resolved as soon as possible.”SHOW MORE