Monday, 10 December, 2018

United Nations envoy stresses 'critical opportunity' as Yemen talks start

Delegates attend the peace talks Delegates attend the peace talks
Steven Clarke | 08 December, 2018, 19:35

United Nations special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (L) shakes hands with Yemeni delegates during the opening press conference of the Yemeni peace talks at Johannesberg castle in Rimbo, Sweden on December 6, 2018.

UN-backed peace talks between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels kicked off Thursday in Sweden.

The legitimate government delegation said - regarding the strategic port city of Hodeidah - that the national army "have means to resolve the file of the port of Hodeidah, if peaceful efforts fail".

Hamid Issam, a member of the team of Iran-backed Huthi rebels in Sweden, dismissed Yamani's role in the talks altogether.

The talks, in the picturesque Swedish village of Rimbo north of Stockholm, where the two sides have to eat in the same cafeteria, are slated to run for one week.

The UN peace negotiations got underway in the Swedish capital city of Stockholm on Thursday amid continuous obstruction attempts by theHouthi militias violating the declared truce in Yemen's Hodeidah port city.

The Saudi-led military coalition, which includes troops trained by the USA and UAE, has for months led an offensive to retake Hodeida.

Saudi Arabia is unlikely to tolerate what it views as an Iranian proxy on its doorstep, and the Houthis have little incentive to withdraw from the capital and other territories they have captured and held at great cost.

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"But it is not up to Khaled al-Yamani". The country serves as the operational base for al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, dubbed the "most dangerous" terrorist group before the rise of the "Islamic State".

"If they could have taken Hodeida four years ago, they would have".

The move has sparked fears for more than 150,000 civilians trapped in the city as even hospitals were seized by militants.

"There is a way we can resolve the conflict", Griffiths said, adding that the Security Council was "united" in its support for a resolution to the conflict.

Sanaa worldwide airport, in the rebel-held capital, has been largely shut down for years.

World Food Program's spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the "ambitious undertaking" finalizes plans in the works in recent months to reach 12 million people with food and nutritional supplements through January, from between 7-8 million now. The Saudi-led coalition went to war with the rebels the following March.

Sources close to the rebels say the Huthis had planned to request the reopening of Sanaa International Airport, which has been damaged by Saudi-led air raids and shut down by Riyadh and its allies, who control Yemen's airspace. "We'd like to see progress on this". Worldwide pressure to end the Yemen conflict reached unprecedented heights in recent weeks, as all eyes turned to Saudi Arabia's policies following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Unless the airport is opened to all our wounded and sick. then it will remain closed", said Houthi delegate Issam, referring to demands the rebels be allowed to evacuate more fighters for medical treatment. Griffiths had attempted to bring the two sides together for UN-sponsored talks in Geneva in September of this year, but the rebels failed to appear.

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