Yemen government sets conditions for Houthi talks

In this file photo, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek Al-Mekhlafi speaks to the media after peace talks on Yemen.(Reuters)
Updated 05 January 2018
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Yemen government sets conditions for Houthi talks

SANAA: Deputy prime minister and foreign minister Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi said the Iran-backed rebels must immediately stop all crimes committed against politicians and civilians in Yemen.
The rebels, who sparked the war in Yemen when they seized the capital in 2014, must also release all detainees and stop launching missiles, Al-Mekhlafi told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The other conditions for talks include a call for the rebels to stop attacking and besieging cities and allowing humanitarian aid to reach civilians.
Al-Mekhlafi said the rebels must also back the three references for a political solution in Yemen, including the Gulf Initiative, outcomes of the Comprehensive National Dialogue and Security Council Resolution 2216.
“The current situation stipulates the need for rebels to show good intention, as there will be no return for talks in the way they went before,” he said.
The minister stressed that Houthis have “proved they are no partners in peace, and are not ready to currently engage in peace”.
UN-sponsored talks in Kuwait in 2016 broke down with the two sides deadlocked and the Houthis and their then ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh were condemned for attempting to form a a political council to run the country.
Last year the Houthi’s alliance with Saleh crumbled, and the rebels killed the former president in December.
Al-Mekhlafi said the rebels’ unwillingness to find a political solution was also down to their backing by Iran.
“Iran considers the Houthis and their battle in Yemen as part of its war to control the Arab region, and therefore behave accordingly,” he said.


Tourism chiefs salute fashion designer for holding son’s wedding in Lebanon

Elie Jr. and Christina Mourad. (Twitter)
Updated 4 min 39 sec ago
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Tourism chiefs salute fashion designer for holding son’s wedding in Lebanon

  • The tourism leader said the situation was to do with Lebanese ego, but he emphasized that wedding parties held in Lebanon could be better than those staged abroad on all levels

BEIRUT: Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab has been hailed by tourism chiefs for staging his son’s lavish wedding reception on home turf.
The influential Syndicate of Owners of Restaurants, Cafés, Night-Clubs and Pastries in Lebanon saluted Saab “for holding the wedding party of his son, Elie Jr., and the Lebanese bride, Christina Mourad, in Lebanon instead of abroad, as do tens of Lebanese leaders and lords.
“Holding wedding parties abroad has deprived the tourism sector as well as other sectors in Lebanon of important revenues that can revive the national economy,” the syndicate said.
The nonprofit body that represents restaurateurs, added that the glittering event had “turned the country into a huge wedding attended by more than 3,000 guests from inside and outside Lebanon.
“People shared their joy on social media, communicating Lebanon’s image of civilization and tourism to the world. This wedding filled Lebanese hotels, restaurants and nightclubs and stirred the economic cycle for more than 10 days before and after the wedding. We salute the man who loves peace and Lebanon a thousand times.”
Jean Abboud, president of the Association of Travel and Tourist Agents in Lebanon (ATTAL), told Arab News: “The syndicate’s stance comes in response to a phenomenon that emerged a few years ago. Distinguished people have been holding lavish weddings for their children abroad, where they spend millions of dollars. This has not only been done by politicians, but also businessmen and senior employees, as if it has become a trend or an added value.”
The tourism leader said the situation was to do with Lebanese ego, but he emphasized that wedding parties held in Lebanon could be better than those staged abroad on all levels. “We have outstanding wedding planners who get employed to plan weddings abroad,” he added.
Abboud pointed out that the tourist season in Lebanon this year had so far been promising with the number of visitors from GCC countries, and especially Saudi Arabia, up on 2018 figures. He added that the 2019 draft budget approved by Parliament last week had not put “any burdens on the tourism sector.”
Chairman of the Hotel Owners Association in Lebanon, Pierre Al-Ashkar, estimated the cost of wedding parties held by Lebanese people abroad to be around $400 million, including hotel accommodation, purchases and transportation, in addition to the expenses of the wedding itself.
He said: “There is no longer a difference between politicians and businessmen who choose to hold their children’s wedding parties abroad. It is true that these weddings are no more than a few hundred, but their expenses are huge and, therefore, deprive Lebanon of this money.”
Al-Ashkar pointed out that the number of tourists choosing Lebanon this summer had risen, highlighting a significant 30 percent increase in the proportion of visitors from Europe.
“However, the number of tourists from GCC countries, especially Saudi Arabia, has not been as we had wished,” he added.
“Maybe this is because these tourists, who have not been visiting Lebanon for five to seven years, now have business in other countries or investments in tourist places outside of Lebanon, especially as some countries now offer incentives to attract tourists carrying certain passports and residence permits.”