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UN Security Council approves deployment of Yemen ceasefire monitors

Carlo Allegri, Reuters | United Nations Security Council members approve the resolution in a unanimous vote in New York on December 21, 2018.

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved the deployment of a UN advance team to monitor a ceasefire in Yemen’s Hodeidah region after days of wrangling that pitted the United States against ally Britain.

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After a week of UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden, the Iranian-aligned Houthi group and Saudi-backed Yemen government foes agreed last week to stop fighting in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah and withdraw forces. The truce began on Tuesday.

The 15-member Security Council authorised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deploy – for an initial 30 days – an advance team to begin monitoring and to support and facilitate the deal between the warring parties.

It also asked Guterres to submit proposals by the end of the month on substantive monitoring operations for the ceasefire and mutual redeployment of forces; support for the management of and inspections at the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa; and strengthening of the UN presence in the Hodeidah region.

Guterres is also required to report weekly to the Security Council on implementation of the resolution, which endorses the ceasefire deal agreed in Sweden.

The Security Council has been wrangling over the British-drafted text since Monday and in an unusual move the United States, unhappy with Britain's efforts, came up with its own version on Thursday.

Traditionally countries propose amendments to a draft rather than coming up with their own text.

The US text, which was seen by Reuters, mirrored the British language focused on the ceasefire deal and authorising UN support. However, Washington had stripped out language on the humanitarian crisis.

The resolution adopted on Friday retained some of the British language on the aid crisis. The conflict has pushed impoverished Yemen to the verge of famine with millions relying on food aid.

More than 80 percent of Yemen's imports used to come through Hodeidah port, but that has slowed to a trickle.

The resolution "calls on the Government of Yemen and the Houthis to remove bureaucratic impediments to flows of commercial and humanitarian supplies, including fuel, and on the parties to ensure effective and sustained functioning of all of Yemen's ports."

The United States had also wanted to condemn Iran for breaching an arms embargo on Yemen, but Russia objected, diplomats said. Iran has repeatedly denied accusations that it has supplied weapons to Yemen's Houthis.

In order to reach a consensus Britain had to cut language on the "need for transparent, credible and timely investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law" and for those responsible to be held accountable.

A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to back government forces. The United Nations and Western countries have criticised the coalition for killing a high number of civilians, including children.

Western countries, including the United States and Britain, have provided arms and intelligence to coalition members.

"Several permanent Council members have helped shield the Saudi-led coalition from pressure and still sell them weapons. That should stop immediately," said Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch.

(REUTERS)

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