US response to UK push for ceasefire in port city of Hodeidah remains unclear
Julian Borger in Washington Bethan McKernan in Beirut
First published on Mon 19 Nov 2018
The UK has put forward a UN security council resolution that calls for an immediate truce in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah and guarantees of safe delivery of food and medicine.
The draft resolution is opposed by Saudi Arabia, which is leading air strikes against Houthi rebels, and it is unclear how much effort the US is prepared to make to push it to a vote at the security council. A parallel peace effort being led by the UN also hangs in the balance as negotiations continue over safe passage of Houthi rebels to peace talks in Sweden.
The resolution sets a two-week deadline for both Houthi rebels in control of Hodeidah and the Saudi-led coalition to remove all barriers to humanitarian aid, according to a copy seen by Agence France-Presse before a security council session on Monday.
The warring sides must “facilitate the unhindered flow of commercial and humanitarian food, water, fuel, medicine and other essential imports across the country” from Hodeidah, through which 80% of Yemen’s imports flows, the text says.
It also calls for a large injection of foreign currency into the country’s economy through the central bank to support the collapsing Yemeni rial and for salaries of civil servants, teachers and health workers to be paid within one month. The resolution also calls on the warring parties to cooperate with a UN-brokered peace talks scheduled to begin later this month.
The resolution supports a series of confidence-building measures aimed at paving the way to talks to end almost fours of war, including the release of prisoners, the reopening of the airport in the rebel-held capital, Sana’a, to commercial flights and strengthening the central bank.
It is unclear when the UK resolution will be voted on. Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, made it clear he objected to it when the British foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, visited Riyadh last Monday. CNN reported that the prince “threw a fit” when shown the resolution.
Diplomats said he argued that, by stopping the offensive on Hodeidah and guaranteeing food and medicine supplies, the resolution would reduce the Houthi rebels incentives to attend peace talks in Sweden. He also objected to any resolution he viewed as limiting the Saudi-led coalition’s freedom of action in Yemen.
The UK has decided to press ahead with the resolution nevertheless, but is uncertain what the US response will be. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, did not ask for the resolution to be postponed, but diplomats at the UN said different parts of the Trump administration hold divergent views on the timing of a resolution, and how much pressure to put on Riyadh.
Pompeo and the US defence secretary, James Mattis, issued calls for a ceasefire and for the start of peace talks this month, a move interpreted by some as an increase of pressure on Saudi Arabia and Emirati allies to curb their military operations and accept a peace agreement.
The murder in Istanbul of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has put the close relationship between the Trump administration and Riyadh under greater scrutiny. Despite this, Donald Trump has shown no signsof abandoning his support for Prince Mohammed. The calls from Pompeo and Mattis’s for peace talks to begin were not backed up by any warnings of US action if the appeals were not heeded.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/19/yemen-senior-houthi-rebel-calls-for-halt-to-attacksThousands of people have died in the conflict in Yemen, and fighting intensified last week in the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. Photograph: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters