The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved Wednesday the deployment to Yemen of up to 75 monitors in a mission to shore up a ceasefire and oversee a pullback of forces from Hodeida.
The observer mission was agreed during talks last month in Sweden between the Saudi-backed government and Huthi rebels and an advance team is already on the ground in the rebel-held city.
The unarmed monitors will be sent to Hodeida city and port as well as to the ports of Saleef and Ras Issa for an initial period of six months.
The port of Hodeida is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s supplies of imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions on the brink of starvation.
The UN says a ceasefire that went into force on December 18 in Hodeida has been generally holding, but there have been delays in the redeployment of rebel and government forces from the city.
The Huthis control most of Hodeida, while government forces are deployed on its southern and eastern outskirts.
The resolution calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “expeditiously” deploy the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeida Agreement (UNMHA), led by retired Dutch General Patrick Cammaert.
Guterres described the mission as a “nimble presence” that will report on violations in Hodeida, which for months was the front line in the war after pro-government forces launched an offensive to capture it in June.
“The goal is to build on the current momentum, to make it irreversible and bring the full weight of the Security Council behind the process,” said French Ambassador Francois Delattre ahead of the vote.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths has told the council that a follow-up round of talks scheduled for later this month was pushed back to February, diplomats said.
Griffiths said “substantial progress” was needed to shore up the ceasefire in Hodeida before a second round could be held.
Since the Saudi-led military coalition intervened in support of the government in March 2015, the conflict has unleashed what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Nearly 10 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine, according to UN aid officials, while 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in dire need of humanitarian aid.