DUBAI (Reuters) - The United Nations on Tuesday said a redeployment by Yemen's Houthi movement from three Red Sea ports had been carried out "partly as agreed" by warring parties, under a peace deal that it hopes will pave the way for wider peace talks.
The Houthi movement's unilateral withdrawal from the key ports, used for grain, oil, commerce and aid, began on Saturday, in the most significant advance yet for efforts to end the four-year-old war and relieve hunger.
"U.N. teams have been monitoring this redeployment which has been executed, partly as agreed by the Yemeni parties in the concept of phase one," the head of a U.N. mission to monitor the deal said in a statement after visiting the ports of Saleef, Ras Isa and Hodeidah.
He welcomed the fact that the ports had been handed over to local coast guards and urged the parties to finalise negotiations for a full implementation of the next stages of the Hodeidah deal.
"There is still a lot of work to be done on the removal of the (military) manifestations, but cooperation has been very good," said Lieutenant General Michael Lollesgaard, head of the U.N.'s Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC).
A ceasefire in Hodeidah, Yemen's main port and a lifeline for millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation, has largely held, but violence continues elsewhere in the country.
The U.N.'s Yemen envoy on Tuesday said he was "deeply concerned" about an escalation of fighting in recent weeks in the al-Dhalea region, which lies on the main south-north transport route, and urged "utmost restraint" from all parties.
"Any military escalation risks a setback in the progress towards peace," Martin Griffiths tweeted.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, leaders of the coalition backing President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government, did not immediately comment on the Houthi withdrawal from the ports.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols at the UN; Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by Kevin Liffey)