Yemen FM pushes Aden as main airport at UN talk

World Saturday 08/December/2018 21:54 PM
By: Times News Service
Yemen FM pushes Aden as main airport at UN talk

Rimbo(Sweden): Yemen’s foreign minister on Saturday said the government-controlled city of Aden could be home to the country’s main airport, amid talks to reopen the rebel-held international airport in the capital Sanaa.
“We are ready to reopen Sanaa international airport today... but we have a vision that Aden will be the sovereign airport of Yemen,” Khaled Al Yamani said in his first interview since the talks opened in Sweden on Thursday.
“If the other side accepts ... flights could land in Aden and leave to Sanaa, Hodeida, other airports.”
Yamani spoke on the sidelines of UN-brokered talks in the rural village of Rimbo, where warring Yemeni parties are gathered under the auspices of the UN.
Government representatives, rebel spokesmen and UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths have all said the talks are not aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict. Both Yemeni parties have threatened to leave the talks if certain demands are not met.
Among the issues under discussion are potential humanitarian corridors, a prisoner swap, the reopening of the defunct Sanaa international airport, and Hodeida, the rebel-held port city at the heart of an ongoing government offensive.
The Sweden talks mark the first meeting between the two sides in two years. The last round of talks, in 2016, broke down after three months.
While the days leading up to the gathering saw the government and rebels agree on a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of wounded insurgents, both parties have publicly traded threats and accusations in Sweden.
Mutual accusations
Yemen’s capital has been held by Houthi rebels since 2014, when the insurgents drove the government out and seized a string of ports. The government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has since fought to drive back the rebels, supported since 2015 by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Mutual accusations of not taking the talks seriously flew on Saturday, the third day of talks that have not as yet seen the delegations meet face to face.
“Expectations always stem from experience, and from my experience I would say no, they are not serious,” said Rana Ghanem, a member of the government delegation and the only woman in either team.
“We have shown that we are serious... but the other party has not shown seriousness,” Houthi representative Abdulmalik Al Hajji told reporters as talks closed on Saturday.
Sanaa international airport has been out of operation for years, severely damaged in air raids by the Saudi-led coalition, which controls Yemeni airspace.
A government proposal to allow flights to and from Sanaa was categorically rejected by the rebels Friday.
Among the conditions set by the government are mandatory transit points in Aden and Sayoun, another government-held city, for plane inspections.
The Saudi-backed coalition accuses the Houthis of smuggling arms through Sanaa as well as Hodeida, the rebel-held Red Sea city home to Yemen’s most valuable port. Shipments to the port, including humanitarian aid, have been severely restricted by the Saudi-led coalition.
Houthis are now embedded in residential neighbourhoods to fight off government forces. Yamani said a government demand for a full rebel withdrawal from the city and port of Hodeida were non-negotiable. Revenues from the once-lucrative port should go to the Hadi government, he said.
“As concerns the port... We accept that it works under the administration that ran the port in 2014, and we are ready to coordinate with the UN on supervision and the reinforcement of port operations,” said Yamani.
“But the port must remain sovereign, part of the work of the Yemeni transport ministry which is in charge of Yemeni borders and ports.” The conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 14 million people now on the brink of famine.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in under four years, according to conservative estimates.