New UN-Backed Yemen Peace Talks Begin in Sweden
06 December 2018, 15:27
Yemen’s warring factions are in Sweden to participate in a new round of peace talks aimed at ending the four-year-old war that has pushed the small Arabian Peninsula country on the brink of famine, VOA news reports.
The U.N.-brokered talks, which began Thursday in the city of Rimbo, are the first negotiations between the Saudi-backed government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in two years. These new talks are being held amid growing international outrage over the dire humanitarian crisis, coupled with the recent killing of U.S.-based Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
Zubair Iqbal, a scholar at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, tells VOA that Saudi Arabia has been pushed back to the negotiating table due to a push in the U.S. Senate to cut off aid to Riyadh in response to Khashoggi’s murder.
Martin Griffiths, the U.N. official negotiating between the two camps, says the main issues on the agenda are control of Sanaa’s key international airport and humanitarian access and a possible power sharing agreement. The two sides have already agreed to a prisoner swap, but observers are playing down hopes for any major breakthroughs.
Iqbal says the talks in Sweden could serve as a starting point to “build some degree of confidence between the two opposing parties, so they can go back and talk to their supporters and work out something that may allow for some compromise down the road.”
The war began when the Houthi rebels seized control of the capital, Sanaa, in 2014, and overthrew the Saudi-aligned government. The conflict escalated when a Saudi-led Arab coalition began warring with the Houthis in an attempt to restore the government.
At least 10,000 Yemenis have been killed since the fighting began. The head of the U.N.’s World Food Program says about 12 million Yemenis are suffering from “severe hunger.”