January 8, 2019 / 6:30 PM / 6 months ago

U.N. chief wants to deploy up to 75 truce monitors to Yemen

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked the Security Council to approve the deployment of up to 75 observers to Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah for six months to monitor a ceasefire and redeployment of forces by the warring parties.

FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks at the Yemen peace talks closing press conference at the Johannesberg castle in Rimbo, near Stockholm December 13, 2018. TT News Agency/Pontus Lundahl via REUTERS/File Photo

After a week of U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Sweden last month, the Iranian-aligned Houthi group and Saudi-backed Yemen government foes reached the deal on Hodeidah, the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and aid supplies, and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis on the verge of starvation.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council will need to take action on Guterres’ request by about Jan. 20, when a 30-day authorization for an advance monitoring team led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert expires.

It was not immediately clear how many monitors were currently on the ground with Cammaert. The United Nations has said the monitors are not uniformed or armed.

The Security Council had asked Guterres to recommend - by the end of last month - a larger monitoring team. Diplomats said Britain was working on a draft resolution to approve Guterres’ proposal, but had not yet circulated it to council members.

In his Dec. 31 proposal to the council, seen by Reuters, Guterres described the proposed 75-strong team as “a nimble presence” to monitor compliance of the deal and establish and assess facts and conditions on the ground.

“Appropriate resources and assets will also be required to ensure the safety and security of U.N. personnel, including armoured vehicles, communications infrastructure, aircraft and appropriate medical support,” Guterres wrote.

“Such resources will be a pre-requisite for the effective launch and sustainment of the proposed mission,” he said.

A Security Council resolution unanimously adopted last month to approve the advance monitoring team was only agreed after days of wrangling that unusually pitted the United States against ally Britain.

Guterres said the larger monitoring mission would contribute to sustaining a “fragile political process” re-launched by U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths. Griffiths is aiming to convene another round of talks between the warring parties this month.

Griffiths and U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock are due to brief the Security Council on the situation in Yemen on Wednesday.

Guterres also called on Yemen’s neighbouring states to assist the monitors by “ensuring the free, unhindered and expeditious movement to and from Yemen” of all personnel, equipment, supplies through their territory and the stationing of “support personnel, vehicles and aircraft on their territory.”

He said similar commitments were needed to scale up humanitarian operations in the country.

A military coalition led by neighbouring Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015 to back government forces. The U.N. and Western countries have criticized the coalition for killing a high number of civilians, including children.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Tom Brown

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