The U.N. Security Council voiced its support Friday for progress made at intra-Yemeni talks this week in Sweden, with the council set to work on a resolution endorsing a deal for a cease-fire around the port city of Hodeida.
"We plan to endorse the agreements reached, support their implementation and set out urgent next steps," said British Ambassador Karen Pierce. Her delegation holds the Yemen file in the council.
Pierce said the draft resolution would address monitoring and verification requirements for Hodeida, where the United Nations is expected to have a leading role.
"We hope to be able to work expeditiously with colleagues to bring about a Security Council resolution which will give the firmest possible support to what's been achieved so far," she added.
Yemen's new U.N. envoy, Abdallah Ali Fadel al-Saadi, appeared to have reservations about the council becoming involved.
"We call upon this august council to work on implementing the resolutions on the situation in Yemen, especially Resolution 2216, to end the conflict," he said of existing council decisions. "We do not need further resolutions."
U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who conducted the negotiations in Sweden between the parties, told the council that a former U.N. peacekeeping commander, Major General Patrick Cammaert of the Netherlands, would be deployed to Yemen as early as next week to begin oversight of the monitoring regime, which he said must be "robust and competent."
Griffiths, who spoke via video link from the Jordanian capital, said the agreement on the city and ports in Hodeida includes a phased but rapid mutual withdrawal of forces.
"This will be achieved in the context of governorate-wide cease-fire," he said.
Hodeida, which is a major lifeline for Yemen, has been under Houthi control for the past two years and the scene of extensive airstrikes, shelling and fighting.
Griffiths said an understanding was also reached between the government and Houthi delegations to ease the situation in the southwest city of Taiz, with humanitarian corridors to allow safe passage of persons and goods across the front lines, as well as reduce fighting.
As for a prisoner exchange agreed between the parties, Griffiths said with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, they hope to have a mass exchange of as many as four thousand prisoners by mid-January.
Still to be finalized - agreements on reopening Sana'a airport and measures needed to help restore Yemen's collapsed economy.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who is leaving her post later this month, said the progress made in Sweden is "encouraging.'
"These talks have produced concrete outcomes, including an agreement for a prisoner exchange," she noted. "The progress made in Sweden should build the trust necessary for more progress in the future."
The U.N. is planning to reconvene the parties again in late January and will hold a donors conference in Geneva on February 26 to raise $4 billion needed to cope with the humanitarian emergency.