Yemen rebels open to more talks if 'progress' made in Sweden
Rimbo (Sweden) (AFP)
Yemen's Huthi rebels are open to more talks with the rival government if progress is made this week at UN-brokered negotiations in Sweden, a spokesman said on Sunday.
The Sweden initiative marks the first meeting between the two sides since the 2016 breakdown of talks to end the Yemen war, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government fight against the rebels.
The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
"If we leave these consultations having made progress -- progress in building confidence and finding a framework -- we can hold a new round of talks" in the coming months, Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam told reporters.
Abdelsalam, who heads the rebel delegation, spoke on the sidelines of UN-brokered talks in the rural village of Rimbo, where warring Yemeni parties are gathered.
Among the issues under discussion in Sweden are potential humanitarian corridors, a prisoner swap, the reopening of the defunct Sanaa international airport, and Hodeida, the rebel-held port city at the heart of a government offensive.
Two government delegates on Sunday said their representatives had met face-to-face on the prisoner swap, which had been agreed to by both parties before the Sweden talks.
A UN official confirmed a "committee" meeting on Sunday on the prisoner swap.
The International Committee of the Red Cross will oversee the exchange.
Officials do not aim for a ceasefire at the talks, which are scheduled to wrap up on Thursday or Friday. A member of the government delegation told journalists Saturday a suspension of military operations was not on the table.
Abdelsalam reiterated his group's call for the reopening of Sanaa international airport, closed save for a few select aid flights for nearly three years now.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani on Saturday told AFP his team had proposed the main airport be relocated to Aden, the southern city that serves as a government bastion.
Government representatives, rebel spokesmen and UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths have all said the talks are not intended to reach a political solution to the conflict, which gained renewed attention in the uproar over the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
© 2018 AFP