Just over a year ago, the international community welcomed the revival of the UN-led peace process in Yemen with the conclusion of the Stockholm Agreement between the Yemeni government and the Houthi uprising (Ansar Allah), under the mediation of UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths. Although the agreement represented the first political breakthrough in the peace process since the failure of the Geneva and Kuwait talks under Griffith`s predecessor, the resulting obstacles to implementation were short-lived. When assessing progress on the three key elements of the agreement – the prisoner exchanges, Hodeida and Taiz – it quickly becomes clear that the truism that implementing peace agreements is much more important and difficult than concluding peace agreements is still true. When they arrived in Sweden in December 2018, the Houthis (whose forces were under military attack) and the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi were under increasing international pressure to reach an agreement. The final impetus came with the arrival of UN Secretary-General António Guterres for talks, Mattis` last-minute phone calls with senior Saudi and Emirati officials, and Riyadh`s pressure on the Hadi government to agree to a compromise on Hodeidah. In the end, the agreement was so hasty that the parties did not actually sign it. [fn]»Making Yemen`s Hodeida Deal Stick,» Crisis Group Q&A, December 19, 2018.Hide footnote They also left the wording of the agreement vague, especially in the section describing the local security forces that were supposed to control Hodeida after the deployment of frontline forces. [fn]»The security of the city of Hodeidah and the ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa is the responsibility of the local security forces in accordance with Yemeni law. Legal powers must be respected and all obstacles to the proper functioning of local state institutions, including supervisory authorities, must be removed. «Agreement on the City of Hodeidah and the Ports of Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Isa», Office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen. See Appendix A. The government refers to the words «in accordance with Yemeni law» to argue that its armed forces are necessary to provide security. The Houthis, for their part, say (and the UN agrees) that it has always been understood that the agreement was aimed at preventing a humanitarian catastrophe, not at resolving sovereignty issues.
Interviews with crisis Group, New York, Abu Dhabi, April-June 2019.Hide the footnote In the middle of this worrying picture, there is good news. In June 2019, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) withdrew most of its forces leading the attack on Hodeidah and continued to support Yemeni anti-Houthi fighters along the Red Sea coast, mitigating the risk of a return to major fighting. But this development must not weigh politicians in a false sense of security. Fighting at the front has shifted to other parts of the country. Anti-Houthi forces still see Hodeidah as a target and could resume hostilities, with devastating consequences. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen, described by the United Nations as the largest in the world, has not deteriorated significantly since December 2018, but it has not improved either. A new battle for Hodeida would almost certainly plunge the country into widespread famine. In addition, continued efforts to revive the stalled Hodeida Agreement consume the full range of available diplomacy at a high cost and prevent a move towards peace talks at the national level. .