Sweden says it could host Yemen’s warring sides for talks

Soldiers loyal to Saudi-led coalition forces are seen in the southern Yemeni port of Aden on October 29, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018
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Sweden says it could host Yemen’s warring sides for talks

  • Wallstrom said the United Nations has asked her country if it “could be a place for the UN envoy to gather the parties in this conflict”
  • She told Swedish news agency TT that her country would be “happy about it,” but that nothing is definite

COPENHAGEN: Sweden on Wednesday offered to host talks between Yemen’s warring parties as Washington called for an urgent halt to hostilities and the UN special envoy ramped up efforts to revive discussions that failed nearly two months ago.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the United Nations has asked her country if it “could be a place for the UN envoy to gather the parties in this conflict” — the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and Yemen’s Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis.
Wallstrom told Swedish news agency TT that her country would be “happy about it,” but that nothing is definite.
The possible venue comes as UN envoy Martin Griffiths called on the opposing sides in the 3 1/2-year conflict to heed “recent calls” for a quick resumption of the political process and efforts to win a halt to fighting in Yemen.
The Trump administration late Tuesday called for an urgent halt to the war and a start to negotiations aimed at a political settlement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked all parties to support Griffiths in what Pompeo said must be “substantive consultations” in November in a third country.
In separate remarks, also Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called for a cease-fire within 30 days.
Nigel Tricks of the Norwegian Refugee Council welcomed the cease-fire call, saying it could be “the political breakthrough that we have long requested from parties to this brutal war” that has been “four years of hell for Yemeni women, men and children.”
Griffiths urged the concerned parties to “seize this opportunity” and singled out support for “confidence-building measures” such as Yemen’s central bank, a prisoner exchange and the re-opening of the airport in the rebel-held Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
“Dialogue remains the only path to reach an inclusive agreement,” Griffiths said in a statement.
Wallstrom reiterated Sweden’s support for Griffiths, whose efforts to host talks between the government and rebels in Geneva in September ran aground when Houthi representatives didn’t show up, insisting they had not been guaranteed safe return after the discussions.
The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthis who toppled the internationally recognized government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The war has killed over 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The UN says Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
At the beginning of 2017, the UN and its partners provided aid to 3 million hungry Yemenis. Since then, assistance has been scaled up, reaching 8 million people last month because of generous funding from donors, but far below the 14 million people — or half Yemen’s population — who may need it.
Earlier this month, Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, warned of “an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen.”


Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

Updated 8 min 16 sec ago
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Meet the Saudi Arabian businessman shaping squash’s Olympic dream

LONDON: A Saudi Arabian businessman is driving the bid to get squash included in the Olympics for the first time.
The World Squash Federation has petitioned three times for squash to join the Games, but each bid has been rejected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The decision has prompted frustration in the squash community, particularly as sports such as climbing, surfing and skateboarding have been admitted.
Ziad Al-Turki is the Chairman of the Professional Squash Association (PSA) and has done wonders in marketing the game and broadening its appeal. He is now pushing hard for the game to be showcased on the biggest stage of all at the 2024 Olympics Games in Paris.
Squash has huge global appeal, with the men’s singles final in the last Commonwealth Games attracting a TV audience of more than one million.
“Everyone’s ultimate goal is the Olympics,” said Al-Turki. “The main push comes from the World Squash Federation (WSF) and for many years they were stuck in their ways. We changed a lot at the PSA and ticked every box with the IOC. The WSF just stayed stagnant and didn’t do anything. They didn’t want to put our hand in their hand and work together.”
Relations between the PSA and the WSF came to a head in 2015 in the wake of squash losing out to wrestling for a spot at the 2020 Olympics. A statement from the PSA described the then president of WSF, Narayana Ramachandran, as an “embarrassment to the sport.”
“Nothing could happen with the president of the WSF. Nothing would change. It was just a one-man show. We tried to help but he wouldn’t accept any help,” Al-Turki said. “We have a new president now and they are all very keen,” he added.
Jacques Fontaine is the new president and at his coronation in 2016 he encouragingly said “the Olympic agenda remains a priority.”
“The WSF love the sport and they understand the needs of the IOC,” said Al-Turki.
“They understand the PSA is at a completely different level to the WSF and we’ve now joined forces and are working together. Hopefully 2024 will be the year squash is in the Olympics. Right now, the way we are working together is the strongest collaboration ever and hopefully we can tick all the boxes for the IOC.
“We ticked all the right bodies as a professional association but the WSF didn’t. Now they are putting their hands in ours and we will tick all the right boxes for the ICO.”
Al-Turki, once described as the Bernie Ecclestone of squash, has certainly transformed the sport since he took up office in 2008.
“When I joined the PSA we didn’t have any media coverage,” he said. “Right now we are live in 154 countries. the women’s tour has just grown stronger and stronger — the income has gone up by 74 percent.
“I just love the squash players. I think they are incredible athletes are are some of the fittest athletes in the world. I felt they deserved better and I wanted them to have better.
“I don’t think we’ll be able to reach the levels of football and tennis in terms of exposure and prize money, but I want to reach a level where they will retire comfortably. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world right now.
“It’s all about the player and their well being. Nick Matthew retired recently and I think he’s retired comfortably. I think I’ve contributed to this as the income has improved. That’s all I want – nothing more.”