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Yemen rebels weigh 'seriousness' of Sweden talks

Talks between Iran-backed Huthis, armed tribesmen from northern Yemen, and a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia opened in Rimbo, Sweden
Talks between Iran-backed Huthis, armed tribesmen from northern Yemen, and a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia opened in Rimbo, Sweden Talks between Iran-backed Huthis, armed tribesmen from northern Yemen, and a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia opened in Rimbo, Sweden TT News Agency/AFP
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Rimbo (Sweden) (AFP)

Yemen's Huthi rebels will assess the "seriousness" of fragile UN-brokered talks with the rival government in Sweden on Friday, the head of the delegation said.

"We have no problem holding talks with the other side," Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said Thursday, as the first day of the talks wound down.

"We will judge whether the Stockholm talks are serious or not tomorrow," Abdelsalam told the Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen television channel.

Talks between the Iran-backed Huthis, armed tribesmen from northern Yemen, and a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia opened on Thursday in Rimbo, Sweden, a rural area some 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Stockholm.

They are expected to last a week, a UN official told reporters.

The meeting marks the first time warring Yemeni parties have officially met since 2016, when more than 100 days of negotiations in Kuwait yielded no breakthrough in the devastating conflict.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was cautiously optimistic the talks would help find common ground between the warring parties, particularly over the fate of rebel-held city of Hodeida.

The Red Sea city has been the target of a Saudi-led offensive to drive the Huthis out.

Hodeida is home to Yemen's most valuable port, the entry point of 90 percent of all food imports to a country at the brink of famine.

Members of the rebel and government delegations in Sweden however traded accusations of aggression, refusing to compromise on Hodeida.

The government is demanding the full withdrawal of the rebels from the city and port. The Huthis, however, have refused to evacuate Hodeida.

The United Nations now qualifies Yemen as home to the world's largest humanitarian crisis, with 14 million people at risk of famine and one child dying every 10 minutes of preventable causes.

The conflict between the Saudi-backed government and armed rebels has killed more than 10,000 people in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world.

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