ADEN (Reuters) – Yemen’s warring parties started fresh U.N.-sponsored talks in Jordan on Monday, Yemeni officials said, two days after Houthi forces began withdrawing from the ports of Hodeidah, breaking a six month stalemate.
The talks will focus on sharing out revenues from Hodeidah’s three Red Sea ports to help relieve an urgent humanitarian crisis, they said.
The Iran-aligned Houthi group began on Saturday a unilateral pullout from the ports of Saleef, Ras Isa and Hodeidah, handing them over to U.N.-supervised local forces as agreed under a pact with the Saudi-backed government last December that had stalled for months.
“The U.N. and its special envoy are sponsoring talks in Amman … to discuss the issue of salaries and to make the economic situation neutral,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthis’ Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said in a tweet.
A Yemeni government official confirmed the talks to Reuters. A U.N. official said the office of U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths was facilitating the meeting.
Hodeidah, the main entry point for Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, became the focus of the four-year conflict last year when the Saudi-led coalition tried twice to seize the port to cut off the Houthis’ main supply line.
Under the Stockholm agreement for a truce and troop withdrawal by both sides from Hodeidah, the ports’ revenues would be gathered in the Hodeidah branch of the central bank to help pay public wages.
The war has devastated Yemen’s economy, exacerbating an urgent humanitarian crisis with millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation.
Soaring prices have put basic commodities out of reach for many Yemenis and the central bank has struggled to pay public-sector salaries as foreign exchange reserves evaporated.
The United Nations will help in the management of the Hodeidah ports, which will be under control of Yemen’s Red Sea Port Corporation and local coast guards, and assist in inspection of ships.
The Sunni Muslim military alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which was ousted from power in Sanaa in late 2014 by the Houthi movement.
The group, which says its revolution is against corruption, holds the biggest urban centres.
(Reporting By Mohamed Ghobari and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Gareth Jones)