Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Yemen Rebels to Decide Friday If Peace Talks Are Serious

Yemen Peace Talks To Begin Today In Sweden, Says UN The Latest: Yemen's warring sides agree on prisoner exchange
Jeannette Daniel | 08 December, 2018, 19:34

The Saudis intervened the following year. More than two million have been displaced in the civil war from their home.

"I'm also pleased to announce the signing of an agreement on the exchange of prisoners, detainees, the missing, the forcibly detained and individuals placed under house arrest", Griffiths said from the venue.

Griffiths said the parties have agreed to exchange prisoners in the first phase of confidence-building steps.

The global Red Cross said it would oversee the prisoner exchange, which is expected to take weeks.

"During the coming days we will have a critical opportunity to give momentum to the peace process", Griffiths told reporters as the rival delegations gathered in Sweden.

Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels are compounding the misery - wiping out entire neighborhoods and destroying hospitals. Saudi Arabia has come under heavy USA pressure since the killing of Khashoggi, and the Houthis are under intense financial strain. Both sides stand accused of war crimes.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the talks and urged the parties to make progress on the agenda outlined by Griffiths, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in NY.

But one of the main hurdles will be the port city of Hodeida, where almost all food and humanitarian aid deliveries are made.

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"Unless the airport is opened to all our wounded and sick. then it will remain closed", said Houthi delegate Issam, referring to demands the rebels be allowed to evacuate more fighters for medical treatment.

Much of the recent fighting has been in and around the city.

Griffiths said the talks would address several main points mentioned by both sides: prisoner exchange, the release of funds to the central bank to pay civil servants in rebel-controlled territory, a possible handover of the port city of Hodeida to the United Nations, and the reopening of the blockaded airport in the capital, Sanaa, to aid deliveries.

According to a statement released by the UN, Griffiths extended his appreciation to the Swedish government for hosting the "direct consultations" between the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels and Saudi-led coalition backing the Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi government in Yemen.

Aid agencies and the UN have put relentless pressure on the Saudis, backed by the United Arab Emirates, not to mount a full-scale assault on the port, but the Saudis see its capture as the gateway to a military victory that has eluded them since 2015.

The UN food agency said it was planning to scale up food distribution rapidly to help another four million people in Yemen over the next two months, more than a 50 per cent rise on the number now reached.

"Later, he added that being together in the room demonstrated "to each other, and most importantly to the people of Yemen that you are ready to come together in the name of a peaceful political solution to the conflict", Mr Griffiths declared, addressing a press conference alongside representatives and the Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström". The target population includes three million women and children who need special support to prevent malnutrition, a spokesman said.

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