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Security Council members report no progress on Yemen deal

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Security Council members said envoy Martin Griffiths reported no progress Wednesday in getting the warring parties in Yemen to withdraw their forces from the key port of Hodeida and two smaller ports as called for in an agreement they signed in December.

France's U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre, the current council president, told reporters after Wednesday's closed-door meeting that there was "no posturing but constructive dialogue" and united support for Griffiths. Belgium's U.N. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve was blunter, telling reporters: "At this point of time there is no progress so the council might do something."

Griffiths had been more optimistic last month, telling the council he expected the imminent pullout of forces, which would provide an opportunity to move to the major goal of ending the four-year conflict in Yemen that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

But Britain's U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said council members have always said the agreement between Yemen's government and Houthi Shiite rebels reached in Stockholm "is fragile — and this is proof that it is fragile."

"I wouldn't say it was in more trouble than we expected," she said. "It's the age old problem of building trust and confidence between the parties." "It's clear that one party has more problems than the other at the moment, but this tends to swing around," Pierce said, without naming the party.

Griffiths did not speak to reporters. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Griffiths "informed council members they were still working with the parties to make the redeployment in Hodeida a reality."

Responding to a question on whether the Hodeida agreement was unraveling, Dujarric said, "I would not use the term unraveling. I think patience and determination are really the name of the game." "No one expected this to be easy," Dujarric said. "This is the first agreement reached by the parties since the start of the conflict" and Griffiths and the U.N. redeployment monitoring team "are determined to help the parties to reach an agreement to implement what was actually agreed to."

Germany's U.N. Ambassador Christoph Heusgen said that at Wednesday's council meeting "there was frustration that we haven't made more progress." "But what was clear is that there is no alternative but to continue on that process and to use all the different channels that are at our disposal to get the parties to implement the Stockholm agreement," he said.

On Tuesday, the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, Britain and the U.S — called on both sides to implement a peace deal on the port city. Under the plan agreed on during talks in December, coalition-backed forces and Houthi militiamen would pull out of Hodeida, while allowing a local force to take control. But on Sunday, fighting erupted in Hodeida, the first significant clashes since warring sides agreed to a cease-fire.

The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by the Iranian-backed Houthis, who toppled the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. A Saudi-led coalition allied with Hadi's internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.

The fighting in the Arab world's poorest country has killed thousands of civilians, left millions suffering from food and medical care shortages, and pushed the country to the brink of famine. U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock has said about 80 percent of Yemen's population — 24 million people — need humanitarian assistance including nearly 10 million "just a step away from famine" and nearly 240,000 "facing catastrophic levels of hunger."

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