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Chief Houthi negotiator meets British FM Hunt in Oman

Chief negotiator for Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement Mohammed Abdul-Salam (R) meets British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in Oman’s capital city of Muscat, on March 1, 2019. (Photo by al-Masirah)

Chief negotiator for Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement Mohammed Abdul-Salam has met with British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in a rare meeting in Oman’s capital city of Muscat to discuss ongoing peace negotiations related to the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah.

Abdul-Salam reiterated Yemen’s commitment to an agreement reached in Sweden’s Stockholm in December last year in the meeting, Yemen’s official Saba Net news agency reported on Friday.

The Stockholm agreement was reached between the Ansarullah movement and the former Saudi-backed regime on a ceasefire in Hudaydah.

Last week, rival factions also agreed to a provisional agreement known as “Phase 1,” further detailing the mutual pullout of forces from the port city under the UN-sponsored deal.

Under the follow-up agreement, the Houthis are to withdraw from the ports of Hudaydah, Saleef, and Ras Isa. Saudi-led forces will, in return, retreat from the eastern outskirts of Hudaydah, where battles had raged before the ceasefire went into effect on December 18.

Speaking to Hunt, Abdul-Salam, however, expressed concern about what he described as the Saudi-led coalition’s attempts at introducing new conditions to the already-agreed “Phase 1” arrangement.

Abdul-Salam rejected any alteration of the previously agreed deal.

The ceasefire has so far put an end to major fighting in Hudaydah after Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched an offensive to gain control of the city — a lifeline for millions of Yemenis — in June 2018.

The offensive stalled after facing strong resistance from Yemeni armed forces — led by the Houthis — as well as the city’s residents.

That operation was part of a Saudi-led war on Yemen that has been underway since March 2015 to reinstall the former Yemeni regime.

The war has taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger.

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