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Yemen war rivals double down as Sweden hosts UN talks

08 December 2018

The Yemeni government delegation to United Nations peace talks held in Sweden, said on Friday that peace can only be achieved if the pro-Iranian Houthi militias give up their arms, pointing out that the legitimate government is ready to open Sanaa global airport immediately, under certain conditions.

Saudi Arabia is unlikely to tolerate what it views as an Iranian proxy on its doorstep, and the Houthis have little incentive to withdraw from the capital and other territories they have captured and held at great cost. The Saudis intervened the following year.

"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. At least 5,000 prisoners are to come, according to the International Committee of the Red cross.

"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.

Yemen's war has left at least 10,000 people dead and generated the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels are compounding the misery - wiping out entire neighborhoods and destroying hospitals. Saudi Arabia and its allies also allowed the Huthis to evacuate 50 wounded rebels from Sanaa for medical treatment in Oman. Both sides stand accused of war crimes.

The talks, being held in the picturesque Swedish village of Rimbo, around 60 kilometres (35 miles) north of Stockholm where warring parties have to eat in the same cafeteria, have been months in the making and are slated to run for one week.

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.

The impasse is on vivid display in Hodeida, a Red Sea port city where Yemen imports 70 percent of its food and humanitarian aid.

Yemeni voices from both sides continued to make some last-minute demands and accusatory finger-pointing, while minor fighting continued to some extent on the ground.

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"We here in Taiz have been three years without salaries, and still we are here in the street, looking for an income", said local Faisal al-Asali from a street cafe. The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, on Thursday said he believed the Sweden talks could "bring good news for Hodeida and for the people of Yemen".

In an interview at the agency's headquarters in Rome, Beasley says: "I'm on their back because we have access issues out into different areas throughout Yemen".

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

The Houthi delegation arrived in Stockholm late Tuesday, accompanied by Griffiths.

World Food Program's spokesman Herve Verhoosel said the "ambitious undertaking" finalizes plans in the works in recent months to reach 12 million people with food and nutritional supplements through January, from between 7-8 million now.

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Yemen war rivals double down as Sweden hosts UN talks