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Yemen president demands full rebel withdrawal from Hodeida

AFP , Wednesday 27 Jun 2018
Hadi
Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi (Photo: Reuters)
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Yemen's embattled president has demanded a full rebel withdrawal from conflict-hit Hodeida, a government source said, after talks with the UN's top envoy on Wednesday in Aden.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths met with President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose troops are battling the country's Houthi rebels for control of the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, in the latest round of talks aimed at containing the escalating violence.

"President Hadi insisted on the need for the Houthis to withdraw completely and without conditions from Hodeida, or face a military solution," a Yemeni government source told AFP, requesting anonymity.

Yemen's government has also demanded a "full withdrawal from the province of Hodeida, including the port" in a statement carried Wednesday by state news agency Saba.

Hodeida, home to the country's most valuable port, is at the centre of a weeks-long military offensive by the Yemeni government and its regional allies, led by the United Arab Emirates on the ground.

A diplomatic source has said the Houthi rebels have agreed to cede control of the port to the United Nations.

The report has not been confirmed by the UN.

The Yemeni president's stance on a full rebel withdrawal from Hodeida is in step with that of his Emirati allies.

On Monday, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted that a Houthi withdrawal from both the port and city of Hodeida was "essential".

The Iran-backed Houthis have controlled the western city of Hodeida, and its port, since 2014, when they drove the Hadi government out of the capital and seized large swathes of northern Yemen.

On June 13, the UAE and its allies, including Saudi Arabia, launched a massive military operation -- dubbed "Golden Victory" -- to drive the rebels out of the Hodeida port.

Two rounds of UN-brokered talks with warring parties have failed to find a political solution to the Hodeida conflict, sparking fears of a fresh humanitarian disaster in the Arab world's most impoverished country.

In a press conference Wednesday in New York, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the situation in the port city was deteriorating.

"Shops, bakeries and restaurants remain largely closed, due to limited availability of supplies in the market," he said.

Prices of staple goods like wheat flour and vegetable oil have increased by about 30 percent, he said, with the cost of cooking gas jumping up 52 percent in the past week.

"Electricity is unavailable in most areas of Hodeida city," he said, adding that water shortages coupled with sanitation problems "could trigger a cholera outbreak".

Some 70 percent of imports to Yemen, where eight million people face imminent famine, flow through the port of Hodeida.

Nearly 10,000 people have died in the Yemen war since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Huthis.

The United Nations has called Yemen the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

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