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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Yemen PM says government ready to resume peace talks 

The Houthis are to blame for delaying any political deal, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed says

Yemeni pro-government forces advance towards the port city of Hodeidah, controlled by Houthi rebels, as they continue to battle for the control of the city, on November 6, 2018. AFP
Yemeni pro-government forces advance towards the port city of Hodeidah, controlled by Houthi rebels, as they continue to battle for the control of the city, on November 6, 2018. AFP

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said the government is ready to resume peace talks, in a sign that direct negotiations between Yemeni officials and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels may soon resume.

Western powers made a push for a de-escalation of the country's civil war last week. The US stressed the need for consultations overseen by the United Nations to begin by the end of the month in Sweden, after previous attempts collapsed in September.

"The government of Yemen has made many concessions in the past aiming to reach peaceful solution but we did not receive any encouragement from the Houthis," Mr Saeed said, according to Yemen's official news agency, Saba. "They are continuing to lengthen the duration of the conflict and suffering of Yemenis."

The premier's comments came during a meeting on Tuesday with the Swedish envoy of foreign affairs to Yemen, Peter Simbi.

In September, the two sides were expected to sit down in Geneva for the first time in two years to discuss measures aimed at ending the three-year war in which more than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed but a Houthi delegation failed to show up.

"The militia has left about one million workers in the areas they control without salaries, which has exacerbated the conflict's humanitarian suffering," Mr Saeed said.

Mr Simbi stressed Sweden's willingness to provide support to Yemen and contribute to ending the suffering of the Yemeni people.

The UN's envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, asked Sweden on Wednesday to host Yemen peace talks.

“I urge all concerned parties to seize this opportunity to engage constructively with our current efforts to swiftly resume political consultations to agree on a framework for political negotiations, and confidence-building measures, in particular enhancing the capacities of the Central Bank of Yemen, the exchange of prisoners and the reopening of Sanaa airport," he said in a statement.

"We remain committed to bringing the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month. Dialogue remains the only path to reach an inclusive agreement.”

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Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the UN asked if Sweden "could be a place for the UN envoy to gather the parties in this conflict".

Ms Wallstrom told Sweden's news agency TT that Copenhagen would be "happy about it" but that nothing was definite.

On Tuesday, Mr Griffiths said on Tuesday that negotiations are the foundation for building peace in the country, according to a statement seen by The National.

He told tribal leaders and civil society workers from Hadramawt and Marib, that it is crucial to work on peace-building especially in parallel with diplomatic efforts, known as Track I, to end the war.

"The real work in Yemen starts the day after we reach a political deal. We should all work to prepare for that day," he said in Amman.

Mr Griffiths has held unofficial, informal peacemaking initiatives carried out by mediators with various societal groups, including civil society organisations, women and youth organisations, to support the continuing diplomatic efforts.