UN proposal calls for monitors to oversee Yemen cease-fire

A proposed U.N. resolution would establish a political mission in Yemen to oversee implementation of a cease-fire and the withdrawal of rival forces from the key port of Hodeida

UNITED NATIONS -- A proposed U.N. resolution would establish a United Nations political mission to oversee implementation of a cease-fire and the withdrawal of rival forces from Yemen's key port of Hodeida.

The British-drafted resolution, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, would approve Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' proposal for up to 75 U.N. monitors to be deployed for an initial period of six months.

The draft resolution says the monitors would oversee the cease-fire in Hodeida and the surrounding area, demining operations at Hodeida and the smaller ports of Salif and Ras Issa, and the redeployment of forces. They would also work with Yemen's government and Houthi Shiite rebels to assure that local forces provide security at the three ports.

Diplomats said the Security Council is expected to vote on the draft resolution next week.

The council voted unanimously Dec. 21 to authorize the deployment of U.N. monitors to observe implementation of the agreement between the government and the Houthis signed in Stockholm on Dec. 13 to monitor the cease-fire in Hodeida and the surrounding area and the pullout of rival forces. But that was only for 30 days, so a new resolution is needed to extend the deployment and establish a more permanent U.N. operation.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Wednesday that there are currently about 20 monitors in Yemen, stressing that their deployment also hinges on the security situation, which he called "fairly delicate, to say the least."

While the cease-fire and withdrawal of forces are limited, the Stockholm agreement, if fully implemented, could offer a potential breakthrough in Yemen's four-year civil war that has brought the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of starvation and created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Martin Griffiths, the U.N. envoy for Yemen, told the Security Council on Wednesday that progress so far has been "gradual and tentative" and new talks between the warring sides won't take place until there is "substantive progress."

Griffiths had said there would be a new round of talks in January but diplomats said he is now looking to February.

The envoy said Yemen's government and Houthi Shiite rebels "have largely adhered" to the cease-fire, but progress on a pullout of rival forces, humanitarian access and other issues agreed to in Stockholm has been slow. He cited a lack of trust by the parties and said there will be many hurdles ahead.

But Griffiths said "speedy implementation is crucial," and urged both sides "to engage regularly and in good faith" with the U.N. monitoring team under retired Dutch Maj. Gen. Patrick Cammaert, who would head the political mission.

Griffiths said that he is working with the Houthis and the government to make sure the next round of talks "will happen at the earliest possible date," and that those consultations will not only monitor progress on the Stockholm agreement but discuss "the fundamental issues that need to be addressed to resolve this conflict."

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the council Wednesday that the humanitarian situation in Yemen hasn't improved since the Stockholm agreement and "remains catastrophic," with 80 percent of the population — over 24 million people — now in need of assistance. "They include nearly 10 million people just one step away from famine," he said.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Yemen's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have fired long-range missiles into Saudi Arabia and targeted vessels in the Red Sea.