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Yemen sides agree to begin pullback from Hodeida

Saleh Al-Obeidi / AFP | Yemeni pro-government forces are pictured on the eastern outskirts of Hodeida on November 14, 2018.

Yemen's government and Huthi rebels have agreed on the first phase of a pullback of forces from the key city of Hodeida, in a deal the United Nations described Sunday as important progress.

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The redeployment from Hodeida was a key provision of a ceasefire deal reached in December in Sweden, but deadlines to move forces away from the ports and parts of the city have been missed.

The Red Sea port is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen's imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions in the Arab world's poorest country.

Following two days of talks in Hodeida city, the government and Huthis finalized a deal on the first phase of the pullback and also agreed in principle on the second phase, a UN statement said.

'A whole generation of Yemenis has known nothing but war'

The talks were led by Danish General Michael Lollesgaard as chair of a redeployment coordination committee (RCC) that includes the government and the Huthis.

"After lengthy but constructive discussions facilitated by the RCC Chair, the parties reached an agreement on Phase 1 of the mutual redeployment of forces," said the UN statement.

The sides made "important progress on planning for the redeployment of forces" but no date was given to begin the demilitarization.

"The parties also agreed, in principle, on Phase 2 of the mutual redeployment, pending additional consultations within their respective leadership."

The first phase provides for a pullback from the ports of Hodeida, Saleef, Ras Issa and from parts of the city where there are humanitarian facilities.

The United Nations is hoping that a de-escalation in Hodeida will allow desperately-needed food and medical aid to reach millions on the brink of starvation in Yemen.

A new round is planned within a week to finalize details on the second phase of redeployment, the UN statement said.

The ceasefire and a Hodeida pullback agreed in Stockholm have been hailed as a major step toward ending Yemen's nearly four-year war.

Yemen's rebels have been mired in a war with government forces backed since 2015 by a Saudi-led coalition.

The talks on Saturday and Sunday were the fourth meeting held between the sides to try to agree on the modalities of the pullback of forces since the ceasefire came into force on December 18.

(AFP)

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