UN: Next round of Yemen talks will tackle political solution

Yemeni government delegate tells The National his team is willing to discuss a Houthi role in Cabinet if rebels agree to surrender arms

REFILE - CORRECTING CITY U.N. envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths shakes hands with Yemeni delegates at the opening press conference on U.N.-sponsored peace talks for Yemen at Johannesberg castle, in Rimbo, Sweden December 6, 2018. Stina Stjernkvist /TT News Agency/via REUTERS      ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. SWEDEN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SWEDEN.
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The UN said future talks between Houthi rebels and Yemen's government will try to find a political solution to the conflict, as a government delegate said his team was willing to discuss rebel participation in the Cabinet if the insurgents gave up their guns.

Yemen’s warring parties continued consultations in Sweden in the first meeting between the two sides since a breakdown of 2016 talks.

A UN official who spoke on condition of anonymity on Sunday said Yemen’s factions would meet again in early 2019.

The talks in Sweden have so far side-stepped discussions on a political transition, focusing instead on a prisoner swap, the reopening of Sanaa airport and securing UN administration of the strategic Red Sea port of Hodeidah.

“Whatever gains we get here (in Sweden) as an entry point to the solution of the conflict, we could start towards building a political solution in late January,” the UN source said. “We want the war to end and we want that to happen now,” he said.


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The UN official said the two sides were willing to meet but had yet to agree on a date and venue.  He said talks would most likely take place in Kuwait or Jordan.

Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said on Sunday that his delegation was open to more talks with the government if progress was made before the talks in Sweden end on Friday.

On Thursday, rival parties agreed to a prisoner exchange. The UN official and a Yemeni government delegate told The National that efforts are focusing on the exchange of some prisoners before Friday.

The government wants to secure the release of high-profile leaders who have been held in Houthi prisons since 2015, including former minister of defence Gen Mahmood Al Soubaihi, and Maj Gen Naser Mansour Hadi – Yemeni President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi’s brother – in addition to the leader of Yemen's Islamist Al Islah party, Mohammed Qahtan.

The Yemen war has claimed more than 10,000 lives since 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the government's fight against the Iran-backed rebels.

Fighting triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with nearly 14 million Yemenis at risk of mass starvation as violence, poverty, disease and blockades bring the impoverished country to its knees.