Yemen’s warring sides negotiating truce for key port
Cairo – Delegations from Yemen’s warring sides discussed expanding a shaky truce in the key port city of Hodeida on Monday, however neither side appeared ready to agree on initial draft proposals hoped for by the United Nations, who are sponsoring talks in Sweden and seek to resume needed aid deliveries by sea.
One draft document obtained by the Associated Press showed an initial 16-point proposal to stop all fighting and have all troops withdraw to the city limits and later outside the province while allowing U.N. oversight and setting up a local, pre-war administration. Representatives from both sides mentioned only preliminary proposals that were not accepted.
Addressing a news conference, U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths struck an optimistic note on progress of the talks. “I hope we will get agreements in the next couple of days on a range of issues,” he said.
He said the two sides are dealing with the “de-escalation” of fighting around the contested cities of Taiz and the Red Sea port of Hodeida.
“If we are able to achieve progress on these two places, I think we will have done a great service to Yemen,” he said.
Griffiths had earlier said he wants to “take Hodeida out of the war,” in hopes that international aid deliveries can be restored through the port and the country can avert famine.
The talks, held in a castle outside Stockholm, have so far focused on implementing a broad prisoner swap between representatives from Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government supported by the U.S. and a Saudi-led coalition. They met for a fifth day Monday.
“As always, in any round of talks, ideas are brought forward, and they could be preliminary, they could have just been thrown out on the table,” said Ali Hussein Ashal from the government delegation. “And a lot of the ideas which have been brought forward previously, in other rounds of talks, the Houthis have refused many of them.”
Earlier rebel delegation member Gamal Amer said that his side had rejected a proposal, although it was unclear if it was the same one or if multiple drafts existed. He says only that the rebels had submitted “substantive observations” about it. Also Monday, a similar draft document circulated outlining a gradual drawdown of the conflict in the central city of Taiz.
The war has killed tens of thousands and made Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with 22 of its 29 million people in need of aid, according to the U.N. The two sides have for months been locked in a stalemated fight over Hodeida.