Yemeni Government Awaits UN Special Envoy’s Response on Hodeidah Plan

Riyadh- The Yemeni government is still waiting for the response of UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to the proposals it has made concerning Hodeidah, mechanism of supplying its port revenues to the Central Bank and the payment of salaries.

A Yemeni government official said that Ould Cheikh did not provide any response to the plan to hand over the port of Hodeidah to a third party, under international supervision.

Yemeni Government Spokesman Rajeh Badi told Asharq Al-Awsat Tuesday that the initiative has many benefits for ensuring that port revenues reach the state treasury, consequently paying salaries of public sector employees.

The initiative would also stop weapons smuggling to coup militias in Yemen as well as end financing of arms dealers, who are still active in the black market and are dragging the country to conflicts among the Yemeni parties.

Badi referred to the tension and differences between the coup parties in Yemen, saying that what recently took place in the capital Sana’a is normal for an alliance that has been founded on the destruction of the country and lacks the right bases for the establishment of legal alliances. The skirmishes also indicate their fake intentions towards the Yemeni people.

Houthi and Saleh militias have more differences than similarities, the Yemeni government spokesman stressed, noting that observers and government officials have bet on the failure of this alliance because it is based on making personal gains and destroying Yemen.

The conflict in the capital Sana’a is prone to escalate and cause deaths among the ranks of coup leaders, Badi said, pointing out that they have never fulfilled their obligations and are not committed to any international agreements or peace treaties to avoid further conflict.

Notably, Houthi militias have carried out attacks and violations on UN and relief organizations in the period from 2015 to 2017 in the cities of Sana’a, Taiz, Hajja, Hodeidah, Ibb and Aden. They killed, kidnapped, closed outlets and offices and looted them, which confirms their efforts to block the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need.

Saudi Arabia to Install Cranes at Three Yemeni Ports

New York- Saudi Arabia has said it is installing four cranes at three ports in Yemen to speed up the delivery of humanitarian aid and was ready to do the same at the key insurgent-held port of Hodeidah if it was placed under the control of a neutral party.

The cranes are being installed at the ports of Aden, Mukalla and Mokha, the Saudi mission to the United Nations said on Thursday. All three southern ports are under the control of the military coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

The coalition stressed its willingness to assist the Yemeni government in restoring control over the country and providing alternative tracks for the entry of food and medicine supplies.

The United Nations has sought to avert attacks on Hodeidah, a vital Red Sea aid delivery point for millions of Yemenis in danger of slipping into famine. Around 80 percent of Yemen’s food imports arrive via Hodeidah, revealed a report by Reuters.

“Saudi Arabia is deeply concerned about the deteriorating humanitarian situation,” the Saudi mission said.

“We have always supported every effort to ensure that the people of Yemen receive the aid and relief they require, especially in times of crisis,” added the statement.

The coalition accuses Houthis of using the port to smuggle weapons and it called for deploying UN observers there. The UN also suggested that Hodeidah be placed under the control of a third party to facilitate humanitarian aid access and protect the port from war effects.

“The coalition reaffirms its readiness to facilitate the immediate installation of cranes at the port of Hodeidah, in line with secretary general special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s latest proposals,” the statement added.

Arab Coalition Supporting Yemen’s Legitimacy Asks UN to Operate Sana’a Airport

Sana'a

Riyadh – The Arab Coalition to Restore the Legitimate Government in Yemen asked on Thursday that the UN operate Sana’a airport. It revealed that it has followed up on reports published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen regarding banning commercial flights from and to Sana’a International Airport.

Official Spokesman of the coalition Colonel Turki al-Malki said that the Joint Forces Command had and is still working to its best efforts to ensure the safe arrival of all commercial, cargo and relief flights to all Yemeni airports in Sana’a, Aden, Hodeidah, Seiyun, Mukalla and Socotra through issuing proper flight permits for all incoming requests, and assigning Bisha National Airport for air traffic management in accordance with UN Security Council resolution 2216.

“Closing Sana’a airport and limiting it to relief efforts came as a precaution to ensure the safety of all inbound commercial and cargo flights, due to the Houthi armed militia’s attempts to smuggle arms into the country,” he said.

According to Al-Malki, the Coalition has assigned airports in liberated and secure cities as alternatives at the request of the Yemeni government, adding that the precautionary measures should not be stigmatized as a cause of suffering for the Yemeni people.

The Colonel also clarified that the number of flight permits issued to every Yemeni airport since the beginning of operations has reached 5,765 for commercial, cargo and humanitarian relief flights. The UN was asked to contribute in resuming flights from and to Sana’a airport through managing airport security and putting the legitimate Yemeni government fears to rest.

“Should airport management and security be conducted properly, ensuring the safety of all inbound flights and stopping arms smuggling, the Joint Forces Command is prepared to restore normal flight activity,” he said.

Meanwhile, Yemeni sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that fierce clashes erupted among Houthi militants in the Hodeidah province, leading to dozens of injuries and the escape of more than 70 conscripts from the area.

The clashes specifically erupted in the valleys located near the eastern port of the coastal city.

“Houthis are now stationed in positions near the port as they seek to prevent any party from controlling the area,” head of the Youth Union in the Tihamah district, Dr. Mataab al-Jabli told Asharq Al-Awsat.

There were several requests to place the port under UN supervision to facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to the Yemeni people, and end the use of the port for weapons smuggling and people trafficking.

Washington: Yemen’s Houthis Hinder Peace Efforts, Positive Signals from Saleh Party over Hodeidah Plan

US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew H. Tueller expressed on Sunday Washington’s determination to play a bigger leadership role in resolving the Yemeni crisis.

In a 40-minute phone conference, Tueller said that Houthi armed militias leading a coup are the chief obstacle up against finding a true settlement for the war-torn country.

The diplomat also said that it is not useful to attack the United Nations and its special envoy for the simple sake of criticizing the United Nations.

He made a remark on the US taking note of the insurgency’s lack of cooperation with the international body, saying that such hindrance is unacceptable.

“We strongly support the efforts of the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, and welcomed the legitimate Yemeni government’s positive response to the recent UN plan for Hodeidah,” said Tueller.

Even more, the ambassador stressed Saudi Arabia’s right to obtain military armament to defend itself “in an area known for the spread of violence,” stressing the Washington’s strong commitment to Saudi security.

It is a historic relationship, and the new US administration continues to uphold these commitments.
Saudi Arabia has suffered repeated cross-border transgressions by Yemeni putschist militias.

Tueller described the Yemeni government’s response to a new UN proposal as a positive sign.

Armed loyalists backing the ousted president Ali Abdullah – who are partaking in the Houthi-led coup- have shown positive signals in terms of willingness to interact with the envoy’s proposals, said Tueller.

On the other hand, Iran-aligned Houthis publicly rejected some pointers to the Hodeidah plan.

It is not surprising that there are differences between the parties when they go to negotiations, Tueller said in a remark bout Houthi-Saleh disputes and lack of unanimity when attending talks together.

“So we want to bring together the parties, bring their views closer and get rid of any differences between them by finding common ground to discuss the matter,” said Tueller.

What is important is that the parties sit down to discuss the points of disagreement between them, he added.

The US Embassy team continues to provide important and humanitarian support to Yemen. In over two years, the US has provided Yemen with more than $ 750 million that went to Yemen’s food, medicine and humanitarian projects.

Yemeni Govt Stresses Implementation of Ould Cheikh’s Proposals in Hodeidah

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Reuters

Riyadh- The Yemeni government has announced its support to the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh’s proposal on insurgent militias withdrawing from Hodeidah in light of the peace talks that were sponsored by the UN in Kuwait in 2016 and approved by the Yemeni government.

In a statement issued by Yemen’s Permanent Mission to the UN, the government said it is fully ready to discuss in details the proposed withdrawal from the Yemeni province.

The statement read: “The Yemeni Government confirms its full support to the proposals and ideas presented by the Special Envoy and its readiness to discuss details of the proposals related to the arrangements for the withdrawal of the militias from the province of Hodeidah, in light of the UN-sponsored peace consultations in Kuwait last year approved by the Yemeni government and forming a technical committee of economic and financial experts to help the government find an appropriate and urgent mechanism to pay salaries to the administrative employees of the state and deal with revenues in areas under the control of the coup forces in order to provide the necessary liquidity to cover these expenses.”

The government appreciated the Special Envoy’s efforts in alleviating the suffering of the Yemeni people, which reached unprecedented levels due to the war, famine, and epidemics caused by the Houthi militia in alliance with former president Saleh.

The Yemeni Government seized this opportunity to reaffirm its commitment to peace against violence and called upon the international community, the Security Council members, and the G18 sponsoring the political process in Yemen to pressure the coup forces to engage sincerely and urgently in discussing the proposals with a view to reaching an agreement that would end the tragedy of Yemen and its people.

For his part, official spokesman for the government Rajeh Badi told Asharq Al-Awsat on Sunday that the government fully supports the UN efforts that aim at ending the crisis.

He said that the proposals have not been implemented yet due to the intransigence of the Houthi militias and Saleh.

Badi held them responsible for the citizens’ situation, especially when it comes to the deterioration of their health conditions, and the continuation of the siege imposed by coup parties on those areas.

Yemen’s Army Draws up New Plan to Free Hodeidah City

Aden, Jeddah- A Yemeni official army spokesman revealed on Tuesday that a new plan has been developed to retake the key port city of Hodeidah from insurgency control.

Iran-backed militias will soon be dislodged from their Red Sea coast bastion, the army spokesman said.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Brigadier General Abdo Ali Mojlei said that national army troops are fully prepared and are waiting for instructions from government control.

At least 90 percent of local inhabitants are rushing to back pro-government forces, whether it be national army forces of Popular Resistance troops, Mojlei said.

Army troops have made major advances on Yemen’s western axis, arriving at Hodeidah’s vicinity.

Insurgency militias have offered to hand over both the city and its strategic port to government forces—however conditions were listed.

Hajjah’s provincial representative Nasser Daqin, Hodeidah’s neighboring governorate, said insurgency militias have demanded army operations backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition cease in order to withdraw from Hodeidah.

Despite the offer being a notable progress, unless international guarantees provided by sponsoring states and undertakings are carried out, the bid remains insufficient.

A time period in which insurgency militias would vacate the city should also be declared.

“The Yemeni government will not enter such conflicts that do not serve the best interests of Yemenis, especially Tihamah region residents,” Daqin added.

Tihamah refers to Red Sea coastal plain of Arabia from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Bab el Mandeb Strait, which encompasses Hodeidah city.

In the meantime, Houthi militiamen and armed loyalists backing ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh continued for the second consecutive day a large-scale kidnapping spree against civilians in the town of Bihan in Shabwa province.

Fierce fighting and mutual artillery shelling coincided with the kidnappings across the province.

Yemen has been reeling from ongoing conflict between Houthis, aligned with Iran, against the constitutionally elected and internationally recognized government headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to help the government retake the capital Sana’a.

Washington Policy Strikes Tehran Aspirations in Yemen

London- Realizing February statements made by US-based Yemeni diplomat, Washington strategy in Yemen shifted towards increased military cooperation with the Saudi-led Arab coalition backing the internationally recognized government headed by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi.

Earlier in February, Yemeni Ambassador to the United States Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington’s policy is fixed on finding a political solution in Yemen. However that solution will not play into Iran’s expectations or compromise regional security, particularly Gulf safety.

When addressing the policy shift, Mubarak said that “it confirmed central interest in securing international navigation, which is a fundamental issue.”

The Trump administration is well aware of the depth of Iran’s interference in Yemen today, Mubarak told Asharq Al-Awsat in a phone call.

Washington will not allow for Iran to exploit Yemeni territory, so that it becomes a secured arms-trafficking route serving their ends, he added.

A number of reports this week stated that Trump is considering providing assistance for an offensive on the key port of Hodeidah that is held by Iran-backed putschists in Yemen and has already increased intelligence sharing and logistics support.

All the more, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis came out saying that Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East would have to be overcome to end the conflict in Yemen, as the United States weighs increasing support to the Saudi-led coalition.

“We will have to overcome Iran’s efforts to destabilize yet another country and create another militia in their image of Lebanese Hezbollah, but the bottom line is we are on the right path for it,” Mattis told reporters in Riyadh after meeting senior Saudi officials.

Christiaan James, who is a spokesperson at the State Department, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Washington will continue working with its allies to put an end to Iran funding militias in the Middle East.

“We have constantly raised our concerns on Iran’s destabilizing action in the region and continue to hold the Iranian government accountable for those actions through all accessible means,” he said.

“Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism and Washington continues imposing all sanctions irrelevant to the nuclear deal,” James added.

Arab Coalition: We Realize Severity of Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen’s Insurgent-Held Areas

Yemen

Riyadh – The Arab Coalition announced on Wednesday that it is exerting all possible efforts to ensure that food and medicine aid is reaching the Yemeni people.

It said in a statement that it is “aware of the gravity of the humanitarian situation in the regions that are held by the insurgents.”

It also shared the United Nations’ concern over the situation in the port city of Hodeidah, saying it is one of the country’s most important portals for aid delivery.

It is under Houthi control, however and, it is being used to smuggle weapons and traffic people, said the Coalition statement.

The statement accused the Houthis of seizing humanitarian aid and selling them to the Yemeni people at very high prices in order to fund their insurgent operations.

The Coalition revealed that it had repeatedly requested that the UN exercise its authority to monitor the situation in Hodeidah to ensure that aid reaches those who need it.

It also noted that other ports and airports in Yemen have been rebuilt and are currently being used to deliver aid to the Yemeni people.

JIAT Says Coalition Unintentionally Hit 1 Yemen Target, Exonerates it from 3 Others

Riyadh, London- The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) on Yemen has held the Arab Coalition responsible for an unintentional airstrike in Hajjah, but exonerated it from three other airstrikes.

The JIAT urged coalition forces to apologize for their unintentional error and provide assistance to the families of victims.

Mansour Al-Mansour, the official spokesman of the JIAT, announced at a press conference he held in Riyadh on Sunday the results of four incident assessments in Yemen: The Sham water-bottling factory in Hajjah, Al-Bayda prison, the old city of Saada and the hospital in Hodeidah.

He said the Coalition Forces accepted the findings reached by the JIAT.

Mansour said based on intelligence information, a mission of an air support was carried out near Hajjah, as the coalition targeted by a laser-guided bomb ground defenses parked close to the water-bottling factory.

Due to weather conditions, the bomb missed the target, falling on the factory’s yard, which caused its destruction and some deaths and injuries, he said.

Concerning allegations and violations made by the Houthi militias, Mansour said: “There are certain UN committees dealing with documentation and violations carried out by the Houthi and ousted Saleh armed militias.”

Meanwhile, the Islamic Organization for Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO) condemned on Sunday UNICEF’s decision to provide financial assistance to Houthis for printing 1, 000 tons of papers for new school books.

But, later, UNICEF announced its decision to freeze the printing of the books.

Yemeni Diplomat: Washington Aware of Size of Iranian Involvement in Yemen

Yemen

Riyadh – Yemeni ambassador to the United States Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak confirmed a “radical” change in the United States’ stances on Yemen under the President Donald Trump Administration.

Recent statements made by Washington officials point out a more decisive and focused approach in the Yemen crisis, Mubarak clarified.

The Trump administration is well aware of the depth Iran’s interference in Yemen today, Mubarak told Asharq Al-Awsat in a phone call.

Washington will not allow for Iran to exploit Yemeni territory, so that it becomes a secured arms-trafficking route serving their ends, he added.

A number of reports this week stated that Trump is considering providing assistance for an offensive on the key port of Hodeidah that is held by Iran-backed putschists in Yemen and has already increased intelligence sharing and logistics support.

Iran has long armed, funded and trained militias across the region, both expanding its sphere of influence and securing ground proxies that will eventually serve Tehran’s overall agenda. For example, Tehran arms and funds the Lebanon-based paramilitary militia “Hezbollah.”

The Yemeni diplomat pointed out to clear condemnations issued by Washington against the Iran-aligned insurgency forces fueling Yemen’s civil war.

Washington publicly reiterated its support for the internationally recognized government in Yemen led by President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, added ambassador Mubarak.

Putschists in Yemen have staged loud transgressions against Yemen, overlooking international waters and their safety, referring to the insurgency-held port of Hodeida, the diplomat said.

He also shed light on Houthi militiamen looting aid sent to deprived areas that now face famine, especially in the port city of Hodeidah.

The World Food Program said earlier this month that the governorates of Taiz and Hodeidah risked slipping into famine if they did not receive more aid.

The Red Sea port near the Bab al-Mandab strait is under the control of Yemen’s armed Houthi movement. The Bab al-Mandab is a waterway through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil is shipped daily.

“Iran continues to smuggle arms in an effort to support Houthi and Saleh militias nestled in Hodeidah,” said the diplomat. The embassy now is seeking to employ more international influence into the efforts seeking to pressure the insurgency into releasing and lifting the blockade off the port city.

“Our government recognizes the significance of Hodeidah’s port for aid delivery, and therefore rooting out Houthis will eliminate their destructive meddling in aid distribution,” Yemen’s ambassador said.

Yemen’s civil war between the internationally recognized Aden-based government of Hadi and the Houthis backed by army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh erupted in March 2015. Shortly after the start of the conflict, the Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries launched Operation Decisive Storm, which aims to restore the constitutionally elected authority into power.