THU 13 - 12 - 2018
Date: Dec 6, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Yemen peace talks set to start Thursday in Sweden
ADEN / STOCKHOLM: A team from Yemen’s Saudi-backed government arrived in Sweden to attend peace talks starting Thursday with members of the Iran-backed Houthi group, in a renewed U.N. push to end a war that has pushed the country to the brink of starvation. A U.N. source said the two sides were unlikely to hold direct talks at the renovated Johannesbergs Castle outside Stockholm and that special envoy Martin Griffiths and his team would shuttle between them for the consultations, the first since 2016.

One representative of the internationally recognized government, Abdullah al-Alimi, tweeted that the talks were “a true opportunity for peace,” before the delegation flew out of Riyadh Wednesday.

Seeking to reinvigorate peace efforts, Griffiths secured some confidence-building measures, including the evacuation of Houthi wounded, to help persuade the movement to attend the talks in Sweden. The Houthis arrived there Tuesday, having failed to turn up for previous talks in Geneva in September.

Swedish authorities cordoned off the venue and several emergency vehicles were stationed outside the castle ahead of the talks, which will focus on agreeing other confidence-building steps and the formation of a transitional governing body.

Sources say the Houthis are expected to request the reopening of Sanaa International Airport, which has been damaged by coalition air raids and shut down by Riyadh and its allies.

A source in the government delegation said President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi’s camp is seeking maps detailing landmines planted by the rebels.

Sources on both sides said they would demand a cease-fire initiated by their rival and the opening of humanitarian corridors.

“If the consultations proceed positively, we will see an immediate change for people in Yemen. We will see fewer people hit by and fleeing violence, fewer people pushed to the most desperate means of staying alive,” said Mohamed Abdi, Yemen country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council.

“Equally, if the consultations fail, or stall, so too will hopes of halting Yemen’s steady descent into hell,” he said in a statement.

The government and Houthis Tuesday agreed to a prisoner swap, to be overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross, after the Sweden talks. Among the thousands expected to be released is Hadi’s brother Nasser, a general and former senior intelligence official.

The United Nations is trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeida, now a focus of the war and the entry point for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and aid. Both sides have reinforced positions in the Red Sea city in sporadic battles after a de-escalation last month.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates key members of the Arab coalition battling the Houthis to restore Hadi’s government want to exit a costly war that has dragged on for nearly four years.

Western allies, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, have ramped up pressure on them to find a way to end a conflict that killed tens of thousands of people and left more than 8 million facing famine.

Yemen govt demands full rebel withdrawal from Hodeida as talks set to open

Agence France Presse
RIMBO, Sweden: The Yemeni government on Thursday demanded rival rebels withdraw from the flashpoint port city of Hodeida, less than two hours before UN-brokered peace talks were due to open in Sweden.

Yemen's Foreign Ministry demanded the "coupist militias withdraw fully from the western coast and hand the area over to the legitimate government" via Twitter -- a reference to rebel-held Hodeida, home to Yemen's most valuable port.

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