Yemen peace deal could unravel over control of the critical port city of Hudaydah

The carefully structured peace deal for Yemen could be falling apart because it’s not specific enough, the British charity Oxfam said.

The Yemen peace deal could be unraveling because it's too vague, humanitarian groups said. Photo by Yahya Arhab
The Yemen peace deal could be unraveling because it’s too vague, humanitarian groups said. Photo by Yahya Arhab

Dina el-Mamoun, Oxfam’s head of policy and advocacy in Yemen, said the agreement reached last month in Stockholm, Sweden, is “too vague.” The Houthi rebels, who are fighting Yemeni government forces and are backed by Iran, were expected to hand over the port city of Hudaydah, Yemen, the main source of humanitarian aid for millions of starving civilians.
Both sides have disagreed over the meaning of the text. The Yemeni government wants to seize control of the port because it operated it before the Houthis took it over. The Houthis disagree, saying they want to hand it over to their allies who are running it now.

“There is an issue with the actual agreement is actually quite vague,” Mamoun told Al Jazeera. “The U.N. should have made clear these basic issues that go to the heart of the agreement: who needs to hand over what and to whom. An agreement that leads us to a state of confusion over what was agreed is not what we needed.”
Martin Griffiths, the U.N. special envoy for Yemen, met with Houthi rebel leaders and will travel to Saudi Arabia next to ensure the peace deal is reached.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq acknowledged the two sides disagree on the terms but said there’s a “collective recognition of the urgency of ending hostilities.” Both sides have violated the ceasefire agreement. The sound of missiles and machine guns can be heard daily in Hudaydah.

“Despite both parties consenting to the Stockholm Agreement, there is still a lack of common interpretation of the implementation and sequencing of the Hudaydah agreement,” Haq told Al Jazeera. “This is of course driven by the lack of trust among the parties and their apprehension with respect to making operational concessions, outside of a comprehensive political solution to the conflict in Yemen.”
This comes as many Yemeni are flocking back to Hudaydah despite the ongoing fighting.

“Huge numbers of civilians have been going back to Hudaydah, and it’s fairly early for this to be taking place,” Suze van Meegan, an aid worker with the Norwegian Refugee Council, told TRT World. “We’re surprised at the number of people going back, and at the mood of optimism of the people that the agreement will hold.”

There has been an escalation of fighting in the Marib region, which is rich in oil and gas resources.
“We don’t want this agreement to give license to parties to the conflict to escalate conflict that will affect people elsewhere,” van Meegen said.

The shaky peace agreement is the first significant breakthrough toward peace in five years.

ByNicholas Sakelaris