Yemeni Houthi delegation escorted by Griffiths to Sweden

Sana'a - Aden - Masqat - Riyadh (Debriefer)
2018-12-04 | Since 6 Month

Houthi (Ansarullah) delegation on Tuesday headed for Sweden to take part in peace talks scheduled to commence by the end of this week, after 50 of their wounded militants arrived in Masqat on Monday.

Evacuation of the wounded was one of Houthi conditions to participate in the UN-hosted talks.

The wounded did arrive, the Omani news agency tweeted noting that their accommodation was "in support of UN efforts aimed at fitting conditions suitable for Yemeni talks round to start."

Houthi spokesman, Mohammed Abdulsalam, tweeted that his group "appreciates UN envoy for humanitarian effort that treats a small portion of Yemenis' suffering caused by airport closure and blockade," thanking the Sultanate for receiving the wounded.

The UN envoy Martin Griffiths in a tweet thanked all parties that helped facilitate this human gesture, urging all Yemenis to act together for peace and stability in Yemen.

Chances to hold talks increased as western allies have pressed on Saudis, leading a military coalition against the Iran-backed Houthis, to stop a war that left tens of thousands killed and pushed the Arab poorest country to brink of starvation.

The Kuwaiti deputy foreign minister, Khalid al-Jarallah, stated that a Kuwaiti plane would take the Houthi delegation, accompanied by the Kuwaiti ambassador to Yemen, to the Swedish capital.

The UN special envoy to Yemen arrived in the capital Sana'a on Monday to escort the Houthi delegation to peace talks.

The Yemeni President's advisor stated that government delegation would fly to Sweden peace talks, but following the departure of their rival delegation.

"Houthis may see the international community's concerns and efforts to bring them to peace negotiations as a win, because the world is now convinced that they are a power whose logic should be yielded to," said advisor Abdulaziz Jobari, also a member in Hadi delegation. "But this is unfortunately not true.

"We are ready to discuss any issue that would lead to real peace. The ball is in Houthis' court. If they are prepared for peace, we are prepared, and hope Sweden talks will be fruitful.. This would be the last chance for peace that should be invested or lost by us as Yemenis."

As for confidence building measures, Hadi foreign minister stated that his government inked a deal on prisoners exchange with Houthi group.

"We took eight to nine months working on this dossier, said Minister Khalid al-Yamani. "Fate of tens of thousands of Yemenis is linked to this dossier.. Though inked, the deal needs international guarantee, namely [from] the Red Cross and UN Special Envoy" for Yemen.

"At Sweden talks, we will discuss .. how to implement this deal and exchange lists of detainees, captives, abductees and forcibly disappeared," he added hoping that the UN envoy could make a progress in this issue.

Head of Houthi captive committee, Abdulqadir al-Murtadha, hoped that inking the deal would be "first step to end this humanitarian issue.. and the deal will be implemented smoothly, without obstacles."

According to private sources, the exchange would include all Yemenis, Saudis and Emiratis captured, detained or jailed over recent events.

Yemeni President's advisor and delegation member, Dr. Mohammed al-Amiri, stated that "Houthi militia introduced a list of 3 thousand soldiers, some of whom are captives and others lost. Our list consists of 1,800 people who are in fact detained and abducted by Houthi militia, but not prisoners."

Separately, the Inter-Agency Standing Committee called for sustained cessation of hostilities, especially for the key aid infrastructure around the port of Hodeida.

"We call upon all parties to allow the humanitarian agencies better, unimpeded access to people in need," said a statement by the Committee. "We call for further urgent action to boost the economy.. And most importantly we urge all parties to go to Sweden for the talks being convened by the UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, and to engage seriously to agree actions to ease the situation."

Analysts see presence of both parties in talks would be an achievement, even with no concrete results reached, as Griffiths is facing difficulties in coping with lack of confidence between parties.

"No party wants to be blamed for adverse consequences of looming famine," Elizabeth Kendal, Arabic and Islamic researcher at Oxford University. "It is not clear so far if political will is there actually to make concessions needed for peace."

Griffiths seeks a pact on reopening Sana'a airport and ceasefire in Hodeida as a basis for more comprehensive truce.

Yemen has been racked by an armed conflict that broke out after the Iran-backed Houthis had ousted the internationally recognized government late in 2014.

Last September, UN peace talks failed after Houthi delegation refused to leave Sana'a on UN plane, asking for Omani aircraft instead to provide additional room for wounded elements supposed to fly to Masqat. But Hadi rejected citing Houthi plans to transport Iranian and Lebanese injured combatants, though to have fought beside Houthis.

Earlier, in 2016, a previous round collapsed following 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait led to a failure to reach a pact on sharing authority and Houthi delegation stayed stuck in Oman for three months.

The Yemeni conflict escalated after a Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in the country in March 2015, and has left nearly 16,000 people dead, hundreds of thousands injured, 3 million displaced and made other thousands to flee the country.

Yemen is facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, with more than two thirds of the 28-million population in need for a type of humanitarian aid and immediate protection, including 8.4 million people unsure how to get next meal, and some 2 million children suffering severe shortage of nutrition.

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