Yemen asks UN to relocate mission office from al-Hodeidah

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

Members of the UN Mission in support of al-Hodeida Agreement monitor the removal of sandbag barricades in the Yemeni Red Sea port city of al-Hodeidah on June 3rd, 2019. [STR/AFP]

Members of the UN Mission in support of al-Hodeida Agreement monitor the removal of sandbag barricades in the Yemeni Red Sea port city of al-Hodeidah on June 3rd, 2019. [STR/AFP]

The Yemeni government on Monday (August 31st) called on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to accelerate the relocation of the UN mission office from Houthi-controlled al-Hodeidah to a neutral location.

In making its request, the government pointed to actions the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) have taken that have restricted the movement and freedom of the UN mission in its current location.

This has prevented the mission from implementing its mandate, per UN Security Council Resolution 2452 of 2019, in support of the Stockholm Agreement signed with the Houthis in December 2018, the government said.

In a Monday message to Guterres, Foreign Minister Mohammed al-Hadhrami accused the Houthis of undermining the work of the UN mission, by committing breaches which threaten the ceasefire in al-Hodeidah.

The UN Mission in Support of al-Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) was created pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2452, he noted.

"But due to the Houthis' continued rejection of the implementation of agreement, and their attempts to undermine the UN mission's work by imposing restrictions on its movement, the mission is now unable to carry out its mandate," he said.

"The UN mission could not even investigate or identify those involved in the killing of government liaison officer Col. Mohammed al-Sulaihi, who was targeted by Houthi snipers in March," he said.

This incident "prompted the Yemeni government to withdraw from the joint committee [Redeployment Co-ordination Committee] until its representatives could be protected", he told Al-Mashareq.

The Yemeni government wants to protect the liaison officers, he said, and is demanding a transparent and comprehensive investigation into the targeting of al-Sulaihi and the identification of the perpetrators.

This has been included in the Foreign Ministry's letters to the UN mission since the suspension of the government delegation's work, he noted.

According to al-Hadhrami, the Houthis breached the al-Hodeidah ceasefire 7,378 times in July, resulting in the death of 14 people and the wounding of 83.

Yemeni lives at risk

"If the UN mission office remains in an area controlled by the Houthis, this will threaten the lives of the government's representatives in the Redeployment Co-ordination Committee," political analyst Faisal Ahmed told Al-Mashareq.

"The Houthis have directly targeted the residents of liberated districts in al-Hodeidah with rockets and snipers, prompting civilians to leave their areas in Hays and al-Tuhayta districts," he added.

"Not a single day passes without these crimes being committed," he said. "People's lives in al-Hodeidah have turned into a hell."

He accused the Houthis of "exploiting al-Hodeidah as a military zone".

The militia is turning the city "into a base for launching their rocket and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and also for attacks involving their booby-trapped remotely-controlled boats and naval mines", he said.

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