In the midst of this disturbing picture, there is good news. In June 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) withdrew most of its armed forces, which carried out the attack on Hodeidah, and continues to support Yemeni anti-Houthi fighters along the Red Sea coast, mitigating the risk of a return to heavy fighting. But this development should not weigh politics in a false sense of security. Fighting on the front has shifted to other parts of the country. Anti-Houthi forces still see Hodeidah as a target and could still resume hostilities, with devastating consequences. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which the UN calls the largest in the world, has not deteriorated significantly since December 2018, but it has not improved either. A new battle for Hodeida would almost certainly plunge the country into widespread famine. In addition, continued efforts to revive the stagnation of the Hodeida agreement consume at a high cost the full range of available diplomacy and prevent turning to peace talks at the national level. Although the full transfer has not yet been completed, the agreement and the United Nations presence in Hudaydah have directly contributed to the reduction of hostilities and the improvement of the humanitarian situation, while providing opportunities for greater confidence in the prospect of ending the conflict. The Security Council approved the Stockholm Convention in accordance with resolution 2451 (2018). What needs to be done? The United Nations should, with the support of the P5, clarify the minimum threshold necessary for the implementation of the Hodeidah agreement in order to allow a shift towards broader peace talks. And the United States, with the support of the United Nations, should push Saudi Arabia to discuss military de-escalation directly with the Houthis, especially with regard to cross-border attacks.
However, with international assistance, a partial emergency solution could still be found for the entire city of Hodeidah or part of it. For example, the parties could agree that both sides, as a means of moving to broader peace talks, would implement the first phase of the redistributions already discussed – the three ports and the critical part of the city for humanitarian access – with the second phase (which focuses on the rest of the city) remaining for later. The implementation of the first phase does not require a comprehensive agreement on local security forces. But it includes an agreement on a tripartite monitoring mechanism involving the Houthis, the Yemeni government and the United Nations, as well as an agreement on the identity of local security forces in the areas of the first phase and a port revenue management plan. To convince the parties, the United Nations needs robust diplomatic assistance. The P5s have shown in the past that they can be effective in cooperation in Yemen; [fn] P5 ambassadors to Yemen cooperated in 2011 to support UN mediation. See Rebecca Brubaker, Things Fall Apart: Holding the Centre Together During Yemen`s 2011 Popular Uprising, UN University Centre for Policy Research, 2018. During the 2012-2014 transition period in Yemen, the P5s formed the core of a contact group of embassies that cooperated to support the UN-led process, which was later expanded to 18 missions abroad. During a period of diplomatic tensions over Syria and other crises in 2018, senior P5 officials identified Yemen as a potential area of cooperation and, with the exception of a dispute between the United States.
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