Shiite Houthi rebels have begun to withdraw from the key port in the Red Sea city of Hodeida as part of a deal reached in peace talks in Sweden earlier this month, a United Nations official said Saturday. But the Yemeni government has disputed the withdrawal claim, calling it a ploy by the rebels to maintain control of the strategic area. Military and local Hodeida officials loyal to the government have said the Houthis placed loyalist administrators and fighters in both the port management and the coast guard. “It’s a stage play in which the Houthis handed over the port to their fighters after they put on coast guard uniforms,” said Hodeida Governor al-Hassan Taher. Another pro-government official has called on the UN to put in place a “clear mechanism” to ensure a fair recruitment process at these facilities. Confidence-building measure The Hodeida port handover was meant to be the first in a series of confidence-building measures between the Iran-aligned Shiite rebels and the Saudi-backed Sunni government, paving the way for a political settlement of Yemen’s devastating four-year war. The government and rebels also agreed in Sweden to exchange prisoners in a deal involving thousands captured on both sides. The two sides have largely observed a ceasefire in Hodeida… Read full this story
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