UN asks warring parties to leave Hudaydah, proposes interim entity to rule Yemeni port
The United Nations has proposed that both parties to the Yemen conflict pull out of Hudaydah, and that an interim entity be set up to run the embattled port city, a lifeline for millions of people in the war-torn country.
The proposal was put forward on Tuesday, the sixth day of the UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden between delegations from Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and the country’s former Saudi-backed regime.
Three sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters that the initiative, which has been presented by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, envisions the formation of a “joint committee or independent entity” to manage Hudaydah after the withdrawal of the warring sides from the strategic Red Sea port.
Hudaydah is the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and vital aid.
However, the Ansarullah say the city must be declared a neutral zone, while the team of Yemen's former Saudi-backed president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi says it should be placed under the control of the self-proclaimed Interior Ministry.
Commenting on UN proposals on Hudaydah, Mohamed Abdulsalam, who heads the Houthi team, told Yemen’s al-Masirah television that the Riyadh-sponsored party is “escalating its military aggression on Hudaydah.”
“The presence of foreign forces in Yemen is contrary to the Yemeni constitution and the resolutions of the Security Council,” he said.
“There is no excuse for the presence of foreign troops in Yemen as long as we are heading for a political solution,” he added.
Additionally on Tuesday, Yemen’s rival parties exchanged lists of over 15,000 prisoners and detainees, including UAE and Saudi nationals, for a swap agreed at the start of the peace talks.
Delegates said the swap would take place through the Sana’a airport and the militant-held Say’un airport in the south, with the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) overseeing the process.
“We have exchanged more than 7,000 names from each side, including some 200 high-ranking officers,” said Ghaleb Mutlaq , a member of the Houthi delegation.
Abdul Qader al-Murtada, another Houthi official, also said the process would begin on January 20.
Askar Zouail, a member of the former government’s delegation, said his side had submitted the names of 8,576 detainees to the UN, while the Houthis had given the names of some 7,487 people.
He also noted that his side had urged the Houthis to hand over the body of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni president who was killed last December.