UN envoy calls for 'robust monitoring regime' in Yemen

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


UN special envoy Martin Griffiths on Friday called for the urgent creation of a strong monitoring mechanism in war-ravaged Yemen, one day after fighting parties agreed to a ceasefire at a vital port.

Yemen's warring factions accepted at UN-brokered talks in Sweden on Thursday a truce on Hodeida port, a key gateway for aid and food imports to a country where 14 million people stand on the brink of famine.

"A robust and competent monitoring regime is not just essential. It is also urgently needed," Griffiths told the UN Security Council, adding that "allowing the UN the lead role in the ports is the vital first step."

He said Yemen's warring parties told him they would welcome the monitoring and called for them to allow it "within days."

Under the agreement, an "immediate ceasefire" should go into effect in Hodeida and its three ports upon signing, followed by a "mutual redeployment of forces ... to agreed upon locations outside the city and the ports."

The UN will play a "leading role" in management and inspections at the ports, which have been under rebel control for four years. Eventually, Hodeida will be under the control of "local security forces" -- a term the rival parties disagree on.

The "UN will take on a leading role in supporting Yemen Red Sea Ports Corporation in management and inspections at Hodeida, Salif and Ras Issa," Griffiths said.

Diplomats said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres may propose a surveillance mechanism comprising 30 to 40 observers.

Some countries could send observers on a reconnaissance mission before the formal adoption of a resolution, diplomats said.

One diplomat suggested Canada and the Netherlands could field the observers.

- Mechanism 'can work' -

Griffiths said Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who has previously worked for the UN in the Democratic Republic of Congo, had agreed to head the UN's future oversight mechanism in Yemen.

Cammaert is expected "in the middle of next week in the region," Griffiths said.

According to a diplomatic source, a monitoring mechanism at Hodeida "can work."

"Is it going to work? We don't know," the diplomat said.

The possible deployment of observers comes after an attempt at something similar in the Syrian city of Aleppo in 2017. In that case, observers had to eventually retreat.

But unlike now, the fighters in that arrangement had not been stakeholders in the process, the diplomat noted.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has for months been warning of a worsening situation in Yemen and says the UN is asking for $4 billion to help suffering Yemenis next year.

"Millions of Yemenis still desperately need assistance and protection," he said.

Meanwhile in Yemen, a Huthi rebel delegation returned to the insurgent-controlled capital of Sanaa on Friday after wrapping up the initial round of breakthrough UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden.

"We wanted to prove to the world that while we are confrontational men, we are also men of peace," delegation member Jalal al-Ruwaishan said.

Impoverished Yemen has been mired in fighting between the Huthi rebels and troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014.

But the war escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition stepped in on the government's side.

The conflict has since killed nearly 10,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. But other rights groups believe the actual toll to be far higher.