Yemen hands al-Hodeidah response to UN envoy

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden


UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths listens to Faisal Amin Abu-Rass, the under-secretary of the Houthis' foreign ministry, at Sanaa International Airport before his departure on June 19th. [Mohammed Huwais/AFP]

Yemen’s government on Sunday (July 22nd) delivered its written response to UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths regarding a proposal on al-Hodeidah he presented during his July 10th visit to Aden.

The written response from Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmad Obaid bin Dagher was delivered to Griffiths during a meeting in Riyadh.

"The Yemeni government reiterates its commitment to just and comprehensive peace based on the three terms of reference," bin Dagher's memo said.

These include the Iran-backed Houthis’ (Ansarallah) full withdrawal from Sanaa and other cities under its control, the handover of weapons to the state, and the reinstatement of legitimate authority, bin Dagher said.


A general view shows al-Hodeidah port on June 24th. [Abdo Hyder/AFP]

The Prime Minister stressed the need for the Houthis to show good intentions before any potential negotiations, by releasing all detainees and facilitating delivery of humanitarian assistance to populations across the country.

Griffiths praised the Yemeni government’s efforts to support the peace process and reach a political solution, saying the UN would work with the parties over the coming days to crystallise potential visions.

'Road to peace still rough'

Observers cautioned however that military resolution of the al-Hodeidah situation remains a possibility, should the Houthis refuse to withdraw.

"In its response to Griffiths' proposal, the Yemeni government stressed its adherence to the three terms of reference," political analyst Saleh al-Baidani told Al-Mashareq.

"With this, it has thrown the ball into the UN's court to exercise pressures on the other side in order to establish peace based on international resolutions," he said.

"In my opinion, the road to peace is still rough in view of the legitimate government’s insistence on the three terms of reference and the Houthis’ insistence on the war choices and their bets on the status quo," he added.

"The desired change in this equation will not happen unless major changes take place on the ground," he said, such as a Houthi withdrawal from al-Hodeidah.

Political analyst Waddah al-Jalil told Al-Mashareq "the Houthis’ behaviour means they are not ready to back down on the gains they made over the past years".

In a series of social media posts, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said he hoped the UN envoy’s political efforts would lead to the Houthis' withdrawal from al-Hodeidah.

If that is not the case, he indicated, the military option remains on the table.

"We are waiting for UN special envoy Martin Griffiths' efforts to bring about Houthi withdrawal from al-Hodeidah which would spare the city a confrontation," he said.

"We are seeing a front where the Houthi militias are barricaded among an angry population. We are also seeing noticeable escapes by the militias and futile recruitment and compensation efforts," he said.

Military operations ongoing

Yemeni forces on Sunday (July 22nd) kicked off large-scale operations to clear pockets of Houthi fighters in al-Qarima and al-Mashariq farms, east and southeast of al-Tuhayat, local media reported.

These operations, conducted south of al-Hodeidah, inflicted heavy losses on the Houthis, with many of them killed, wounded or arrested.

On the Saada front in northern Yemen, Yemeni forces backed by the Arab coalition on Friday liberated and secured a number of strategic positions west of Baqim following violent battles with the Houthis.

"The army and security forces, supported by the [Arab] coalition, have thwarted a Houthi infiltration attempt into military sites, west of Baqim," 63rd Brigade Infantry Commander Brig. Gen. Yasser Mejali told local media.

These forces carried out a counter attack in which they liberated the remaining parts of al-Tebab al-Bidh and other positions adjacent to Abwab al-Hadid, west of Baqim, he added.

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