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Pro-govt forces halt Yemen port offensive as UAE backs talks

Updated November 15, 2018

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After 12 days of clashes, Hodeida is “quiet” and its port is “operating”, tweets UAE state minister for foreign affairs. — AFP/File
After 12 days of clashes, Hodeida is “quiet” and its port is “operating”, tweets UAE state minister for foreign affairs. — AFP/File

HODEIDA: Forces loyal to Yemen’s government on Wednesday halted an offensive on the lifeline port of Hodeida as the United Arab Emirates, a key member of the pro-government coalition, threw its weight behind “early” UN peace talks.

Three military officials told AFP that pro-government forces were “ordered” to stop their assault against the Iran-linked Houthi rebels until further notice, but would resume operations should the insurgents attack.

The UAE state minister for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, said meanwhile his country welcomed the “early convening of UN-led talks in Sweden” and urged warring factions to take advantage of diplomatic efforts. The UN is pushing for peace talks by the end of the year, and Sweden said it is ready to host them.

The developments came after the offensive on Hodeida by pro-government forces and the Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, appeared to stall.

After 12 days of clashes, Hodeida was “quiet” and its port was “operating”, Gargash tweeted. “We are working closely with the UN on expanding humanitarian assistance for all areas of Yemen,” he added.

On the ground in Hodeida, a relative calm was holding for a second full day, and despite the thundering sound of jets flying overhead, no major fighting was reported.

Speaking to AFP earlier, a military official said pro-government forces had temporarily stopped their advance into the port to allow safe passage for civilians, humanitarian staff and wounded.

One military official said however that the pro-government forces would be launching major operations “in the coming days”. “The battles will not stop, except with the liberation of Hodeida and the whole west coast,” he said.

According to the UN’s office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Tuesday, 34 people were killed among 92 civilian casualties in the first week of November in Hodeida province. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said about 445,000 people have fled Hodeida province since June.

World Food Programme chief David Beasley, who is visiting the country, said up to 14 million Yemenis were on the brink of starvation, and 18 to 19 million were now “food insecure”. “Conditions on the ground are extremely, extremely bad,” he told the BBC on Wednesday. “Bottom line, we need for this war to end.”

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2018

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