In­di­rect Yemen talks not good start for peace

All for­mer ne­go­ti­a­tions had col­lapsed, lead­ing to more vi­o­lence on the ground

China Daily - - WORLD -

ADEN, Yemen — UN-spon­sored peace talks to build con­fi­dence be­tween Yemen’s war­ring fac­tions started on Thurs­day in Swe­den in the first step to re­sume the po­lit­i­cal process which ground to a halt in 2016.

The talks were the first in two years in a con­flict be­tween a Saudibacked pro-gov­ern­ment mil­i­tary coali­tion and Houthi rebels that has pushed Yemen to the brink of mass star­va­tion.

How­ever, the con­sul­ta­tions are in­di­rect, with UN Spe­cial En­voy to Yemen Mar­tin Grif­fiths talk­ing sep­a­rately to the Houthi and Saudibacked gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tions.

Also, con­tro­ver­sial is­sues, es­pe­cially over con­trol of Hodei­dah prov­ince, add com­pli­ca­tions to the process.

The Ye­meni gov­ern­ment in­sists on re­tak­ing Hodei­dah, where its forces, with sup­port from a Saudi-led coali­tion, have been en­gaged in bat­tles with the Houthis for months.

More­over, it in­sists on im­ple­ment­ing UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 2216, which calls for Houthi with­drawal from cities and the han­dover of heavy weapons.

Grif­fiths said at the open­ing of the con­sul­ta­tions that the talks are be­ing fo­cused on Hodei­dah, re­open­ing air­ports, the econ­omy, the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis, and re­leas­ing all pris­on­ers.

Shortly be­fore head­ing for Swe­den, the gov­ern­ment and the rebels started ar­range­ments for the re­lease of all pris­on­ers and de­tainees, and all they need to agree on dur­ing the con­sul­ta­tions is a suit­able mech­a­nism to make that a re­al­ity.

“These po­lit­i­cal con­sul­ta­tions in Swe­den are the first step to­ward put­ting Yemen on the path to peace,” Grif­fiths said.

Yemen’s war­ring fac­tions have held sev­eral rounds of peace talks since the con­flict be­gan af­ter the Houthis seized power in late 2014. But all of the talks have col­lapsed, lead­ing to more vi­o­lence on the ground.

‘No pre­con­di­tions’ urged

UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res urged the war­ring par­ties on Thurs­day not to im­pose pre­con­di­tions af­ter both sides put for­ward de­mands, while the rebels said they were still as­sess­ing the “se­ri­ous­ness” of the hard-won talks.

Po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Ab­bas al-Dhaleai said: “The po­lit­i­cal process af­ter what Saudi Ara­bia has done and spent in Yemen means a de­feat for Saudi Ara­bia. The Gulf king­dom will not ac­cept de­feat. It wants to dis­arm the Houthis, a thing that can’t be achieved in re­al­ity.

“The Houthis have been tak­ing ad­van­tage of the Saudi-led coali­tion’s con­fu­sion and po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary fail­ures. But the most im­por­tant thing is that they are not states­men, but mil­i­tants. They can’t imag­ine them­selves liv­ing without arms,” Dhaleai added.

Adil al-Shuja’a, a pol­i­tics pro­fes­sor at Sana’a Uni­ver­sity, said for­eign pow­ers do not want to end the con­flict in Yemen be­cause they want to sell more arms.

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