US and UAE declare support for Yemen talks next month

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said the UAE is looking forward to the talks in Sweden

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The push for a new round of peace talks on Yemen next month gathered political momentum on Wednesday, as both the United Arab Emirates and the United States announced their support for the negotiations.

In an interview with Sky News Arabia, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said the upcoming talks in Sweden would be a first step towards a political solution between the government and the Houthi rebels.

“We are putting sincere efforts to provide the right atmosphere for the occasion, but it needs a Yemeni framework supported from regional countries and the United Nations,” Sheikh Abdullah said, while praising UN envoy’s Martin Griffiths endeavours.

He said the UAE was “looking forward to Stockholm talks, which may not be the last round of negotiations but we hope it would be a basis for more serious talks from the Houthis if they are serious about solving the crisis”.

The last round of talks in Geneva last September failed after a no-show from the Houthis. Mr Griffiths spent the day in Sanaa on Tuesday trying to convince the Houthis to come to the table.

The UAE foreign minister blamed Iran for stalling the situation in Yemen. “Were it not for Iranian intervention in Yemen, the Yemeni crisis would have ended a long time ago” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah called Iran a “neighbouring country that deserves to be like any other country seeking development and serving its people” but he criticised the country’s leadership for placing its priorities elsewhere.

“I hope there are minds in Iran that desire stability in Iran and the region to change the current path.”

The UAE’s support came as US State Department released another statement calling “for all parties to support Martin Griffiths by immediately ceasing hostilities and engaging in direct talks aimed at ending the conflict.”

Spokeswoman Heather Nauert referred to a statement by UN Special Envoy that “the Houthis and the Republic of Yemen Government are committed to attending the consultations in Sweden, and we call on the parties to follow through on that commitment.”

“The time for direct talks and building mutual confidence is now,” Ms Nauert said.


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US Defence Secretary James Mattis also sounded upbeat about the prospects of talks. He told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday that “it looks like very, very early in December up in Sweden we’ll see both the Houthi rebel side and the UN-recognised President Hadi government will be up there.”

“The Saudis and the Emiratis are fully on board,” he said.

Pressure has been mounting from Congress on the Trump administration to push for a political solution for the war. Fear of a widespread humanitarian catastrophe and an economic collapse have triggered a sense of urgency to pursue negotiations. A report by the non-governmental organization Save The Children on Tuesday estimated that around 85,000 children may have died of hunger in the war-ravaged country.