Yemen: Difficult dialogue between belligerents, millions of "hungry" people

Tensions continued Saturday in Sweden between the Yemeni government and rebel negotiators, meeting to try to renew the dialogue to end a conflict that "starves" millions of civilians, according to humanitarian agencies.

The Saudi government, supported by the Sunnis and the Shiite-backed rebellion, are meeting near Stockholm for consultations conducted by the UN over the past two and a half years.

While UN officials have welcomed the "positive spirit" of these consultations, the tone remains largely hostile between the two sides.

The government on Saturday accused the Houthi rebels of "not being serious" in seeking an agreement for the devastating war that has blocked them since 2014.

"The experience defines expectations and I would say no, they are not serious," Rana Ghanem, a member of the Yemeni delegation, told the press.

"But our hope (…) is to help alleviate the tensions and sufferings of the Yemenis," he added.

"We are serious, we have shown," replied a representative of Houthi. "The other side is not serious," added Abdulmalik al-Hajji.

All attempts to end the four-year war have so far failed, while the humanitarian situation in Yemen, the worst UN in the world, is deteriorating day by day.

In September, the peace talks stopped on the refusal of the Houtson negotiators to travel to Geneva without guarantees on their return journey to Sanaa and the evacuation of rebels injured in Oman.

The consultations in Sweden are ongoing thanks to the efforts of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, the British Martin Griffiths, who acts as a mediator between the two sides.

Mrs. Ghanem confirmed on Saturday that the delegations had not yet met directly, but had been able to "informally" exchange themselves in the salons of the convention center where the talks are held.

– Millions of "hungry" –

Among the files taken into consideration are the catastrophic economic situation of the country, the implementation of a prisoner exchange agreement reached this week, the reopening of the airport of the capital Sanaa and the control of the port city of Sanaa. Hodeida (west) where most humanitarian aid goes.

The government asks in vain for the complete withdrawal of the rebels from this port on the Red Sea, which is the scene of intense fighting. He accuses them of using it to import weapons.

"The port must return under the control of the administration that directed it in 2014", before its conquest by the rebels, the Yemeni foreign minister, Khaled al-Yémani, told AFP.

The abandonment of Hodeida "is not on the agenda," warned a Houthi negotiator on Friday.

The rebels on their side call for the reopening of the capital of the capital Sanaa to civilian traffic. The rebels control the airport but Saudi Arabia remains the owner of the Yemeni sky.

Yemani has expressed the "vision" of the government, in exile in Aden, to make this major southern city the main airport of the country.

Yemen, already the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula, is the scene of the world's worst humanitarian crisis according to the UN, which estimates 14 million civilians threatened by famine.

Yemen's economy has completely collapsed and the riyal, the local currency, has lost more than 36% of its value in 2018, causing a sharp rise in commodity prices, especially food prices.

In a report published Saturday, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Agencies, the Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP) reported that up to 20 million of Yemenis were currently in a situation of food insecurity.

About 15.9 million people are already waking up hungry, they warned, based on the scale of the Food Food Framework (IPC) of the FAO.

For WFP director David Beasley, this analysis "is an alarm bell that proves that famine is increasing".

The opening of humanitarian corridors had to be taken into consideration during the Stockholm consultations.

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