Low ex­pec­ta­tions as Swedes host Ye­meni peace talks

The Australian - - WORLD - STOCK­HOLM:

Peace talks be­tween the Ye­meni gov­ern­ment and rebels, aimed at end­ing four years of war that has pushed 14 mil­lion peo­ple to the brink of famine, were to open last night in Swe­den.

The UN-bro­kered talks in Rimbo be­tween Ye­men’s Saudibacked gov­ern­ment and the Houthi rebels, linked to Riyadh’s arch-ri­val Iran, will be the first since 2016 when more than 100 days of ne­go­ti­a­tions failed to end a war that has now claimed at least 10,000 lives.

An­a­lysts and diplo­mats said they did not ex­pect a break­through at the sum­mit. UN sources say the or­gan­i­sa­tion aims for “con­fi­dence-build­ing” be­tween the two par­ties, at war since the rebels staged a takeover of Ye­meni ter­ri­tory in 2014.

The con­flict has trig­gered what the UN calls the world’s worst hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis — with chil­dren dy­ing of hunger, dis­ease and war, re­cruited as sol­diers or bartered as child brides ev­ery day.

Sources close to the rebels say the Houthis are ex­pected 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.

A source in the gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion said Pres­i­dent Abe- drab­buh Man­sor Hadi’s camp is seek­ing maps de­tail­ing land­mines planted by the rebels.

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

No end date has yet been set for the talks, slated to take place at the Jo­han­nes­berg Cas­tle — a large es­tate, with a golf course, 60km north of Stock­holm.

A 12-mem­ber gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion, led by For­eign Min­is­ter Khaled al-Ya­mani, landed in Stock­holm on Wed­nes­day evening, re­fus­ing to fly un­til the Houthis had landed. The rebels failed to turn up for UN en­voy Mar­tin Grif­fiths’ Geneva talks in Septem­ber, de­clin­ing to leave Sanaa over what they said were fears they would not be al­lowed to re­turn.

The gov­ern­ment and Houthis on Tues­day agreed to a pris­oner swap, to be over­seen by the In­ter­na­tional Com­mit­tee of the Red Cross, af­ter the Swe­den talks. Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies also al­lowed the Houthis to evac­u­ate 50 wounded rebels from Sanaa for med­i­cal treat­ment in Oman.

The two sides are not due to sit down at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble to­gether. “I would have very low ex­pec­ta­tions,” a Se­cu­rity Coun­cil diplo­mat said.

Any power-shar­ing agree­ment, or even ten­ta­tive tran­si­tional gov­ern­ment, would have to con­tend with Ye­men’s con­vo­luted po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary con­sti­tu­tion.

The Houthis hail from what was once an in­de­pen­dent north­ern Ye­men and to­day con­trol the cap­i­tal, Sanaa, along with the Red Sea city of Hodeida, home to the coun­try’s most valu­able port.

The gov­ern­ment of Mr Hadi is now based in the prov­ince of Aden in the south — an area home to gov­ern­ment loy­al­ists, Is­lamists and a strong sep­a­ratist move­ment.

REUTERS

The se­cu­rity de­tail of UN en­voy to Ye­men Mar­tin Grif­fiths

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