Day 2 in talks aimed at end­ing blood­shed

UN says civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Ye­men av­er­age 123 per week

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - BY DAVID KEY­TON AND BRIAN RO­HAN

The United Nations’ refugee agency said Fri­day there were nearly 1,500 civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Ye­men from Au­gust through Oc­to­ber, the lat­est grim tally to emerge from a four-year civil war as op­pos­ing par­ties hold talks in Swe­den.

The an­nounce­ment came as Ye­men’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment, sup­ported by a Saudi-led coali­tion, met for a sec­ond day for UN-spon­sored talks aimed at halt­ing the blood­shed.

UNHCR urged the two sides to do more to pro­tect civil­ians, say­ing data from Ye­men shows an av­er­age of 123 civil­ian killed and wounded ev­ery week dur­ing the three-month pe­riod, in a war that has killed at least 16,000 civil­ians.

On Fri­day, at the venue in a cas­tle in the town of Rimbo, north of Stock­holm, U.N. en­voy Martin Grif­fiths and var­i­ous del­e­gates from Ye­men were seen walk­ing on the grounds.

Dur­ing a break out­side the talks, Oth­man Mu­jali, minister of agri­cul­ture from the Hadi gov­ern­ment, said his side was ready to make con­ces­sions to help re­lieve suf­fer­ing and prop up the econ­omy.

“There are trust build­ing mea­sures upon which we will build good­will, with them leav­ing Hodeida and ceas­ing to skim off funds,” he said. “We are ready to re­lease pris­on­ers of war and pay wages to peo­ple, if they carry on with what we’re agree­ing upon.”

The Houthi del­e­ga­tion later said that talks had been di­vided into five main sec­tions, in­clud­ing open­ing up Sanaa air­port for aid, adding that the pris­oner swap would in­clude all de­tainees from both sides.

“The first sec­tion is the po­lit­i­cal frame­work, the sec­ond sec­tion is the air­port ... then Sanaa and the eco­nomic mea­sures and hu­man­i­tar­ian is­sues, and the fifth - and it has been dis­cussed and fin­ished - is con­cern­ing the de­tainees and pris­on­ers of war,” se­nior Houthi ne­go­tia­tor Ab­dul-Ma­lik al-Ajri said.

The talks opened Thurs­day on an up­beat note, with the war­ring sides agree­ing to a broad pris­oner swap, boost­ing hopes that the talks would not de­te­ri­o­rate into fur­ther vi­o­lence as in the past.

In a re­lease from Sanaa later Fri­day the rebels said their del­e­ga­tion had met with Grif­fiths and looked for­ward to hav­ing suc­cess in the talks and mak­ing con­crete progress.

“The in­ter­na­tional en­voy dis­cusses the im­por­tance of such con­sul­ta­tions and af­firmed that progress must be made on three im­por­tant is­sues: the gen­eral frame­work, po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion and calm, and con­fi­dence-build­ing mea­sures,” they said.

Ye­men’s con­flict, which has pushed the coun­try to the brink of famine, pits the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment against Shi­ite rebels known as Houthis, who took the cap­i­tal of Sanaa in 2014. The Saudis in­ter­vened the fol­low­ing year.

UN of­fi­cials have sought to down­play ex­pec­ta­tions from the talks, say­ing they don’t fore­see rapid progress to­ward a po­lit­i­cal set­tle­ment but hope for at least mi­nor steps that would help to ad­dress Ye­men’s wors­en­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis and pre­pare a frame­work for fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions.

UNHCR says of the 1,478 civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, 33 per cent were women and chil­dren. That’s a to­tal of 217 women and chil­dren killed and 268 wounded.

An As­so­ci­ated Press in­ves­ti­ga­tion pub­lished Fri­day has re­vealed ev­i­dence of tor­ture at de­ten­tion sites run by Ye­men’s Houthi rebels. There has also been in­ter­na­tional out­rage against the coali­tion over abuses. The AP has ex­posed tor­ture at se­cret pris­ons run by the UAE and their Ye­meni al­lies and has doc­u­mented the deaths of civil­ians from strikes by drones in the United States’ cam­paign against al-Qaida’s branch in Ye­men.

JANERIK HEN­RIKS­SON/TT VIA AP

Ye­men’s Minister of Agri­cul­ture and Ir­ri­ga­tion Oth­man Hus­sein Faid Mu­jali, right, speaks to jour­nal­ists dur­ing the on­go­ing peace talks on Ye­men held at Jo­han­nes­berg Cas­tle, in Rimbo, Swe­den, Fri­day. The United Nations’ refugee agency said Fri­day there have been nearly 1,500 civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Ye­men from Au­gust through Oc­to­ber, the lat­est grim tally to emerge from a four-year civil war as op­pos­ing par­ties meet for talks in Swe­den.

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