The United Nations says Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have agreed to unilaterally redeploy their forces out of three Red Sea port facilities over four days beginning on May 11 – potentially opening the way for the delivery of humanitarian aid that is desperately needed to prevent a famine that threatens millions of people in Yemen.
Under the redeployment pledge, Houthi militants say they will move out of the Red Sea ports of Hodeidah, Saleef, and Ras Isa on Yemen’s west coast.
The head of the UN’s Redeployment Coordination Committee called the pledge “the first practical step on the ground” since the conclusion of a deal brokered in Stockholm in December.
Under that agreement, pro-government forces in Yemen also are expected to leave positions around the outskirts of Hodeidah during the initial redeployment before a second phase in which both sides withdraw their troops further.
But the UN’s statement did not specifically mention any reciprocal redeployment by the pro-government forces, which have the support of a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The coalition alleges that the Houthis have been using Hodeidah, Yemen’s principal Red Sea port, as a landing point to smuggle weapons supplied by Iran.
The Houthis deny those charges.
The UN committee’s chairman, Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard of Denmark, said the UN will monitor the Houthi redeployment and that the moves must be followed by “the committed, transparent, and sustained actions of the parties to fully deliver on their obligations.”