The UN’s hopes of negotiating a ceasefire with Houthi rebels in the vital port of Hodeidah in Yemen appear to have been dashed after the Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government said it would only accept the rebels’ unconditional withdrawal from the area.
The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has been in the country seeking a deal whereby the port, currently under Houthi control, is handed over to the UN and its relief agencies. The port is the distribution point for up to 80% of the food, water and commercial fuel vital to the lives of more than 8 million Yemenis in severe need. The UN and aid agencies fear a prolonged fight will endanger the aid supplies.
But the United Arab Emirates, the key military supporters of the UN-backed government, has insisted it will not accept anything but an unconditional withdrawal.
The Houthis are extremely unlikely to agree to this, since it would amount to surrender of the area with no guarantees on the future status of Yemen.