Yemen Negotiations Face Numerous Stumbling Blocks on Day Two of Talks
Talks between the opposing sides in the Yemeni conflict are deadlocked on day two of indirect negotiations outside the Swedish capital Stockholm, according to Arab media reports.
U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths has been meeting separately with the Houthi delegation and that of the internationally recognized government.
The conflict in Yemen has been under way for nearly four years, and the second day of talks showed that many difficult issues remain to be resolved.
Media reports say the two sides agreed to release captives, though there is no timetable yet to actually begin releasing prisoners.
But Foreign Minister Khaled al Yamani, head of the delegation of the internationally-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, told journalists such confidence-building measures are a step forward.
He says that releasing prisoners and forcing the Houthis to allow aid into certain regions of the country that they control, in addition to getting them to withdraw from the (Red Sea port of) Hodeida, were the first steps on the road to peace.
However, Jamal Amr, who is a member of the Houthi delegation from Sanaa, told the BBC Arabic service the two sides remain far apart on who should control Hodeida, but the Houthis “would like to avoid any fighting that could potentially damage the port,” which is essential to bring food aid and other goods into the country.
The U.N. has offered to administer the port, but the Houthis refuse to hand it over.
Another dispute: re-opening Sanaa Airport to commercial air traffic.
The Houthis, who control the airport, say it should re-open to international flights, without forcing planes to be searched for weapons in Saudi-coalition controlled areas.
Hamza al Kamali, deputy minister of youth and sports, says the Hadi government and the Saudi-coalition are worried that without searches, weapons will be smuggled in from outside the country.
He says that the Houthis would like to use Sanaa Airport as a military airport, but that the government side considers that unacceptable and thinks traffic should be limited to food aid and commercial goods.
Other key issues include ending a blockade that has divided Taiz — Yemen’s second largest city — and put some of its population in dire straights.
There are also arguments over control of Yemen’s central bank and payment of government employees. The government of President Hadi insists that revenues be deposited at the central bank branch in Aden, which it controls. Houthis reject that demand.
Yemeni analyst Ezzet Mustapha told Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV that Griffiths “has not done a good job of organizing the talks,” and that he is afraid that they “may degenerate into a battle of rival agendas and irreconcilable demands.” The Houthis, he claims, “are insisting on achieving their political goals before making any concessions.”
Meanwhile, Houthi spokesman Mohammed al Bakhiti, told Arab media that “a new transitional government must be formed (in Sanaa) to replace the Hadi government as well as the Houthi-backed government.” “Then,” he argues, “all the parties inside the country must return to the bargaining table.”