Among the issues under discussion in Yemen peace negotiations are potential humanitarian corridors, a prisoner swap, the reopening of the defunct Sana’a International Airport, and the fate of the crucial port city of Hodeida.
RIMBO, SWEDEN — Among the issues under discussion in Yemen peace negotiations currently underway in Sweden — the first such talks between the Saudi-led Coalition and Ansar Allah in two years — are potential humanitarian corridors, a prisoner swap, the reopening of the defunct Sana’a International Airport, and the fate of the crucial port city of Hodeida.
Yemen’s Ansar Allah, the political wing of the Houthis, has strongly rejected demands by the Saudi-led coalition to hand over Hodeida, maintaining that the port of Hodeida is non-negotiable as it is the conduit for 90 percent of food imports to impoverished Yemen.
The Saudi coalition claims its military operations will stop in exchange for a Houthi withdrawal from Hodeida, but the Houthis countered that the area should be put under the control of a unity government formed by all Yemeni parties and supervised by the United Nations and that that government should be formed first, before all parties are disarmed.
Since Saudi coalition operations against Hodeida began, the humanitarian situation has steadily worsened in Yemen. The destruction of the port city would trigger a further humanitarian crisis in the country, where the UN estimates 14 million people face imminent starvation.
Meanwhile, Saudi coalition representatives, which include Yemen’s former Saudi-backed government, have proposed that the coalition-controlled city of Aden should be home to the country’s main airport, relegating the Sana’a International Airport to local use instead of reopening as an international airport in Yemen’s capital.
Ansar Allah rejected this proposal, saying that reopening Sana’a International Airport, currently under an imposed closure by the Saudi-led coalition, is an important humanitarian objective necessary to transport sick and wounded residents as well as food supplies. Ansar Allah added that Aden is not subject to Yemen’s authorities.
Abdul Malek al-Aajri, a member of the Ansar Allah delegation, said:
Sana’a Airport is an international airport that serves the trips to Sana’a from the rest of the world. Yemen does not need domestic flights, but we need international flights to transport those who are sick and others like travelers, students, prisoners, as well as humanitarian supplies.”
Many civilians are unable to return to Yemen through the southern districts that under Saudi-led coalition control under the pretext that they have supported Yemen’s resistance and opposed the presence of the coalition in Yemen. Some patients traveling to seek medical treatment have been prevented from returning home and others have been detained by the coalition.
Supported by the United States and other Western military powers, the Saudi-led coalition forced the closure of Sana’a International Airport, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians as a result of their inability to travel abroad for treatment not available in Yemen.
According to a group of NGOs, including the International Rescue Committee and the Norwegian Refugee Council, over 10,000 people seeking life-saving treatment abroad have died from critical health conditions since the Sana’a Airport was closed.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam — the head of the Sana’a delegation at the peace talks, which are taking place in the rural village of Rimbo — said that the Houthis are open to more talks with coalition representatives in the coming months if there is progress in building confidence and finding a framework.
However, it was also stated that if the Saudi-led coalition undermined the talks in Sweden, the Yemeni People have no choice other than to continue confronting the Saudi-led coalition. UN officials sought to downplay expectations, saying they don’t foresee rapid progress toward a political settlement.
Top Photo | Yemenis take part in a protest calling for the reopening of Sanaa airport to receive medical aid, in front of the U.N. offices in Sanaa, Yemen, Dec. 10, 2018. Hani Mohammed | AP
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.