Ye­men govt, fight­ers at odds over air­port re­open­ing

Oman Daily Observer - - REGION -

RIMBO: Ye­men’s gov­ern­ment and An­sar Al­lah fight­ers were at odds over re­open­ing a key air­port on Satur­day, the third day of Un-bro­kered talks aimed at end­ing the coun­try’s cat­a­strophic war. The gov­ern­ment pro­posed the re­open­ing of Sanaa air­port in the cap­i­tal on con­di­tion it will be lim­ited to do­mes­tic flights be­tween the city and the gov­ern­ment-con­trolled city of Aden.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives at the talks, which kicked off on Thurs­day in Swe­den, in­sist the air­port op­er­ate in­ter­na­tional flights, the pro-an­sar Al­lah tele­vi­sion Al Masirah re­ported.

The gov­ern­ment says the air­port is un­der the con­trol of the fight­ers and al­lege they could use in­ter­na­tional flights to smug­gle in arms.

The air­port has been closed to com­mer­cial flights since Au­gust 2016 by an al­liance fight­ing on the side of the Ye­meni gov­ern­ment against An­sar Al­lah.

The con­sul­ta­tions in the Swedish town of Rimbo are a re­newed at­tempt by the UN to end nearly four years of civil war that have pushed the coun­try to the brink of famine.

An­sar Al­lah con­tin­ues to re­ject a gov­ern­ment de­mand to hand over the Red Sea city of Hodeida and its vi­tal port. UN en­voy to Ye­men Mar­tin Grif­fiths on Satur­day held sep­a­rate meetings with del­e­ga­tions from the gov­ern­ment and fight­ers.

“Sev­eral files were dis­cussed at to­day’s meetings in­clud­ing those of pris­on­ers, Sanaa air­port, Hodeida and de-es­ca­la­tion,” a mem­ber of the gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion said, ask­ing not to be named.

The two sides signed a pris­oner swap deal be­fore their del­e­ga­tions ar­rived in Swe­den.

Mean­while, Ye­men’s main port city should be de­clared a “neu­tral zone” and the United Na­tions could play a role in Sanaa air­port, An­sar Al­lah’s main ne­go­tia­tor said on Satur­day on the side­lines of talks.

The An­sar Al­lah con­trol ma­jor pop­u­la­tion cen­tres in Ye­men, in­clud­ing the cap­i­tal Sanaa and the Red Sea port of Hodeida, a life­line for mil­lions of peo­ple that is now a fo­cus of the war af­ter the coali­tion launched a cam­paign to cap­ture it this year.

Spe­cial en­voy Mar­tin Grif­fiths is try­ing to avert a full-scale as­sault on Hodeida, the en­try point for most of Ye­men’s com­mer­cial goods and vi­tal aid.

“It (Hodeida) should be a neu­tral zone apart from the con­flict, and the mil­i­tary brigades that came from out­side Hodeida prov­ince should leave,” An­sar Al­lah ne­go­tia­tor, Mo­hammed Ab­dusalam, said in Rimbo on the side­lines of peace talks with the gov­ern­ment.

The Un-spon­sored talks, the first in more than two years, are fo­cused on con­fi­dence-build­ing steps, in­clud­ing re­open­ing Sanaa air­port and a truce in Hodeida that could lead to a broader cease­fire in the nearly four-year-old con­flict that has pushed Ye­men to the verge of star­va­tion.

Asked if An­sar Al­lah forces would then with­draw from Hodeida, Ab­dusalam said: “There will be no need for mil­i­tary pres­ence there if bat­tles stop... Hodeida is an eco­nomic hub and it should stay that way for the sake of all Yemenis.”

— AFP

Ab­dul Ma­lik al Ha­jry and Ab­dul Ma­jid Hanash, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of An­sar Al­lah del­e­ga­tion, talk to the press dur­ing the on­go­ing peace talks on Ye­men held at Jo­han­nes­berg Cas­tle, in Rimbo.

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