UN Security Council in talks on saving Yemen truce deal


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

The United Nations Security Council met behind closed doors with the world body's envoy for Yemen on Wednesday in an attempt to salvage a stalled truce deal seen as crucial to diplomatic efforts to end the war.

Yemen's government and its Saudi and Emirati allies agreed in talks with Huthi rebels nearly a month ago to begin a redeployment of forces from the flashpoint city of Hodeida, but nothing has happened on the ground.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths had told the council on February 19 that the initial stage of the pullback would happen in the following days, marking the first concrete step toward de-escalation.

The redeployment was initially agreed in December under a ceasefire deal reached in Sweden seen as a breakthrough toward ending the devastating war that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

UN diplomats said the Huthis were refusing to pull away from the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa as agreed due to fears that forces linked to the Saudi-led coalition will move in to take over those facilities.

General Michael Lollesgaard, who heads a newly-created UN mission to monitor the redeployment from Hodeida, joined Griffiths in updating the council behind closed doors.

Ahead of the council meeting, the envoy met with ambassadors of the United States, France, Britain, China and Russia, which are the permanent council members.

On Tuesday, the ambassadors of the P5 in Yemen said they were "extremely concerned" that agreements reached in Stockholm had not been implemented and expressed support for UN efforts to "secure the earliest possible implementation of the arrangements" for redeploying forces from the ports and city of Hodeida.

The ambassadors said the pullback should begin "without further delay and without seeking to exploit the redeployments by the other side."

Earlier this week, 12 children and 10 women were killed by strikes in Yemen's northern province of Hajjah that left up to 30 people wounded including 14 children, the UN humanitarian coordinator said.

Later this month, the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen will enter its fifth year, with millions of civilians facing famine.

The conflict has unleashed the world's worst humanitarian conflict.