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Tuesday , September 17 2019

Kuwait offers logistics for Yemen talks

10-year-old Ghazi Saleh lies on a bed at Al-Mudhafar Hospital in Taez on Nov 19. Skin and bones, Ghazi lies on a hospital bed in the southwestern Yemeni city of Taez barely breathing. (AFP)

KUWAIT CITY, Nov 22, (Agencies): Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah said Wednesday the State of Kuwait is prepared to offer logistic support to the intra- Yemeni peace talks, planned to take place in Sweden on Dec 3.

“There is coordination with the friends in Sweden, at their request, regarding these talks,” he told reporters during a celebration at the Embassy of Oman in Kuwait to mark the 48th National Day of the Sultanate. On the planned meeting of the joint Kuwaiti-Belgian committee, Al-Jarallah said the Kuwaiti delegation to the meeting would leave for Brussels on Sunday.

“The meetings of the joint committee take place according to the provisions of memorandum of understanding between Kuwait and the European Union,” he said, noting that the MoU is the first such document between the EU and a Gulf state.

Al-Jarallah voiced hope that the meeting of the committee would give momentum to the relationship with the EU. During their stay in Brussels, the Kuwaiti delegation will attend the opening ceremony of Kuwait office at the NATO headquarters, he added.

Peace talks aimed at ending the war in Yemen have been set for early December in Sweden, between Houthi rebels and the UN-recognized government, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday. He said the Saudis and United Arab Emirates – who have militarily backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the brutal three-year-old war – “are fully on board, by the way.”

“It looks like that very, very early in December, up in Sweden, we’ll see both the Houthi rebel side and the UN-recognized government, President Hadi’s government, will be up there.” Mattis last month made a surprise call for a ceasefire in Yemen and urged warring parties to enter negotiations within the next 30 days. The United Nations has now pushed that deadline back to the end of the year.

Mattis’ latest comments came as the US State Department said talks must not be delayed any longer, and UN envoy Martin Griffiths was in Sanaa for talks with rebel leaders to push them to join the peace talks in Sweden. Griffiths is spearheading the biggest push in two years to end the war, which has sparked what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. It also comes a day after US President Donald Trump vowed to stick with Saudi Arabia as an ally despite the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul Oct 2.

The CIA has reportedly concluded that the murder was ordered by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but Trump chose to overlook that in favor of the larger relationship with the Kingdom. “On the Khashoggi affair, presidents don’t often get the freedom to work with unblemished partners in all things,” Mattis said. “If you want to end the war you’re going to deal with Saudi. You can’t say I’m not going to deal with them,” he said.

Washington has been providing bombs and other weapons, as well as intelligence support, to the Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi, but recently ended its refueling support for Saudi warplanes. The Houthis failed to show up to peace talks in Switzerland in September, leading to the collapse of that effort to end the fighting. The Houthis have said repeatedly that they need stronger security guarantees from the international community that they will be given safe passage through the crippling air and sea blockade the coalition has enforced since March 2015.

UN agencies say up to 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation if fighting closes the port of Hodeida, a gateway for humanitarian aid. “All parties must not delay talks any longer, or insist on travel or transport conditions that call into question good faith intentions to look for a solution or to make necessary concessions,”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “The time for direct talks and building mutual confidence is now.” Nauert said the US welcomes the coalition’s Tuesday announcement of $500 million to address Yemen’s food security crisis.

“In addition to this, Hodeida port must be turned over to a neutral party to accelerate the distribution of aid to address the acute humanitarian crisis, and to prevent the port from being used to smuggle weapons and contraband into the country or to finance the Houthi militia,” Nauert said.

“It is time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction.” Years of United Nations-backed peace efforts have failed to end Yemen’s fighting, which has killed nearly 10,000 people – mostly civilians – since the Saudi-led coalition intervened. UN envoy Griffiths met with Yemeni rebel chief Abdulmalik al-Houthi Thursday to discuss logistics ahead of planned peace talks in Sweden in December, a rebel spokesman said.

The two men addressed “what can facilitate new discussions in December and procedures needed to transport injured and sick for treatment abroad and bring them back”, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said on Twitter.

The United Nations envoy to Yemen will visit the rebel-held battleground port city of Hodeida this week, a UN source said Thursday, as he presses warring parties to uphold pledges to join peace talks. Griffiths, who arrived in the rebelheld capital Sanaa on Wednesday, was in the Arabian Peninsula country to lay the groundwork for next month’s negotiations in Sweden.

The British diplomat’s visit to Hodeida on Friday was aimed at encouraging Iran-aligned Houthi rebels and government forces backed by a Saudiled coalition to stay calm ahead of the talks in Stockholm, the UN source said.

The conflict in Yemen, which escalated when the Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015, has killed thousands and sparked what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. UN agencies say up to 14 million Yemenis would be at risk of starvation if fighting closes the port of Hodeida, through which nearly all of the country’s imports and humanitarian aid pass. Both sides have in the past week expressed support for the envoy and his mission to hold discussions, but military officials have said that intermittent clashes continued to erupt in the Red Sea city of Hodeida. Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the rebels’ Higher Revolutionary Committee and an infl uential political figure, said the rebels were ready for peace.

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