Yemen's warring parties meet for third day of peace talks

Yemen's warring parties meet for third day of peace talks
Yemen's Houthi rebels and the country's internationally-recognised government are due to meet for a third day of peace talks in Sweden.
2 min read
08 December, 2018
UN officials have downplayed expectations about the Sweden talks [AFP]

Yemen's warring parties are meeting for a third day of talks in Sweden aimed at halting the country's catastrophic war.

Both the internationally-recognised government, which is backed by a US-sponsored and Saudi-led military coalition, and the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels say they are striving for peace.

The Houthi delegation says talks have been divided into five main sections, including discussions on a political framework and the opening of Sanaa airport for aid.

The talks opened on 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.

On Friday, however, the Houthi rebels ruled out handing over the key port of Hodeida to the government as demands from both sides escalated.

"This is not on the table," Abdulmalik al-Ajri, a member of the rebel delegation, told AFP after the Yemeni government said it was seeking a full Houthi withdrawal from the flashpoint port city.

UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who has pushed for months for the Yemen talks, urged both parties to spare Hodeida.

UN officials have sought to downplay expectations from the talks, saying they don't foresee rapid progress toward a political settlement.

A Yemeni government official said on Saturday that Houthi rebels were "not serious" on finding common ground to end the devastating war.

"Expectations stem from experience, and from experience I would say no, they are not serious," said Rana Ghanem, a member of the government delegation to the talks.

"But our hope ... is that this will help alleviate the tension, and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people," said Ghanem, the only woman in either delegation.

The Sweden talks mark the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people since 2015 and triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Some 14 million people are at imminent risk of starvation in Yemen, according to UN estimates, as a Saudi-led military coalition continues to battle the country's Iran-backed Houthi rebels.