The Houthis’ decision to accept UN oversight of al-Hodeida while keeping their gunmen in the port and city shows their disregard for civilian lives and forces the hand of pro-government forces, observers tell Al-Mashareq.
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths met with Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi in Aden on Wednesday (June 27th).
Griffiths told Hadi the Houthis (Ansarallah) had agreed to accept international oversight over al-Hodeida port, provided their gunmen remained there -- a proposal Hadi and the Arab coalition categorically rejected, local media reported.
Foreign Minister Khaled Hussein al-Yamani said Hadi welcomes the UN envoy’s efforts on terms that would see the Iran-backed Houthis withdraw from al-Hodeida port and city and Interior Ministry forces entering and securing these areas.
Relief aid and commercial imports would be permitted to continue to flow to the port, he said, and facilities and civilians also would be protected under this plan, which would start the process of implementing UN Resolution 2216.
The resolution calls on all parties to the conflict, in particular the Houthis, to immediately and unconditionally end violence.
It calls for the Houthis to withdraw from all areas seized during the current conflict, relinquish arms seized from military and security institutions, and cease all actions falling exclusively within the authority of the legitimate government.
It also imposes sanctions, including a general assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo, on Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the Houthis' leader.
Al-Yamani called on the Houthis to leave the entire province, including Salif and Ras Issa ports, and to withdraw from state institutions.
Houthis stall for time
"It seems the Houthis are facing a tough moment," political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq. "They do not want to withdraw or hand over the city to the government. They are trying to waste time or prevent the government from retaking al-Hodeida and its port."
"However, all of these are illogical choices," he said. "The balance of military power on the ground in al-Hodeida is in favour of the pro-government camp."
"Military resolution will be the only option for the pro-government forces to retake the city and its strategic port from the Iran-backed Houthis," he said. "This shows the Houthis do not care about civilian lives, as their choices will exacerbate humanitarian suffering."
The Houthis’ proposal, delivered to Hadi by the UN envoy, "is aimed at wasting time", he said. "The Houthis want to stay in al-Hodeida under any circumstances, and therefore will try to stall for time until international interventions or pressures somehow work out to stop military operations."
After that, they think they can take part in political negotiations that can end with them keeping the gains they have made, al-Jalil added.
According to Mohammed Anaam, former editor of the General People’s Congress mouthpiece al-Mithaq, the Houthis will not hand over the port peacefully.
"They do not care about the people, who they want to keep in town to use as human shields in case the joint forces decide to liberate the town by force," he told Al-Mashareq.
"The Houthis’ goal behind the partial acceptance of the UN initiative is to gain time, in the hope that cracks will take place in the ranks of pro-government forces which are positioned on the outskirts of al-Hodeida," he said.