The head of the United Nations team tasked with monitoring a fragile ceasefire arrived in Yemen’s embattled port city of Hodeida on Sunday, a UN source said.
Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert is heading a joint committee including members of the government and the Huthi rebels, in charge of monitoring a truce in the vital Red Sea city and its surroundings.
Cammaert arrived in Hodeida from the rebel-held capital Sanaa after meeting with government officials in Aden.
He is expected on Monday to tour Hodeida’s lifeline port, which serves as the entry point for the majority of imports to war-torn Yemen, before starting meetings with the committee on Wednesday.
Yemen’s warring sides agreed on a ceasefire to halt a devastating offensive by government forces and an allied Saudi-led coalition against rebel-held Hodeida at peace talks in Sweden this month.
The UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution authorising the deployment of observers to Hodeida to monitor the truce that came into effect on Tuesday.
In Sanaa, Cammaert was met by the head of the Huthi delegation, Ali al-Mushki, as he arrived there earlier on Sunday.
The visit to the rebel bastion came after the UN lead monitor urged Yemeni leaders and the Saudi-led coalition to uphold the ceasefire at talks in Aden on Saturday.
Cammaert also sought government loyalists’ “commitment and cooperation to secure the unhindered flow of humanitarian aid”, the UN said, adding that he was conveying “similar messages” to the Huthis in Sanaa.
– UN to secure port –
Both the government and the rebels have backed Friday’s UN resolution to deploy observers to Hodeida.
Rebel negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam said it marked “an important step towards stopping the aggression and lifting the blockade”.
He was referring to the Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in 2015 and imposed a blockade on Yemeni waters and airports.
The internationally-recognised government, in turn, reaffirmed in a statement its “commitment (to respect) the agreement” reached in Sweden and endorsed by the UN resolution.
The halt to fighting in the strategic port city follows intense diplomatic efforts led by the UN which culminated in the truce agreed at the peace talks in Sweden.
The ceasefire has remained shaky, however, with both sides accusing each other of violations in Hodeida province.
The UN monitoring team aims to secure the functioning of Hodeida port and supervise the withdrawal of fighters from the city.
The text approved by the Security Council “insists on the full respect by all parties of the ceasefire agreed” for Hodeida.
It authorises the United Nations to “establish and deploy, for an initial period of 30 days from the adoption of this resolution, an advance team to begin monitoring” the ceasefire, under Cammaert’s leadership.
Around 10,000 people have been killed since the Saudi-led intervention began, according to the World Health Organization, although rights groups say the death toll could be five times higher.
The conflict has unleashed a major humanitarian crisis and pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine.