Yemen military offensive ‘still open if Houthis reject Hodeidah pullout’

A government offensive on Yemen’s Hodeida remains an option if Houthi militias refuse to withdraw from the port city, a minister said on Friday, as the negotiators met for UN-brokered talks. ( AFP)
Updated 08 December 2018
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Yemen military offensive ‘still open if Houthis reject Hodeidah pullout’

  • Talks between Yemen’s government and Houthis, linked to Iran, opened on Thursday in Sweden
  • Agriculture Minister Othman Al-Mujalli said military decisiveness may be an option if the Houthis are not responsive

STOCKHOLM: A government offensive on Yemen’s Hodeidah remains an option if Houthi militias refuse to withdraw from the port city, a minister said on Friday, as the negotiators met for UN-brokered talks.
“We are now in negotiations in response to calls by the international community, the UN and the UN envoy. We are still looking into means toward peace,” said Agriculture Minister Othman Al-Mujalli.
“But if they (the Houthis) are not responsive, we have many options, including that of military decisiveness,” he told reporters in response to a question on the Houthi-occupied city. “And we are ready.”
Talks between Yemen’s government and Houthis, linked to Iran, opened on Thursday in Sweden.
While the days leading up to the gathering saw the government and Houthis agreeing on a prisoner swap deal and the evacuation of wounded insurgents for medical treatment in Oman, both parties traded threats as the talks began. The two sides have not yet met face-to-face.
Talks are expected to focus the fate of Hodeidah, a city on Yemen’s western coastline that houses the country’s most valuable port.
The government accuses the Houthis of arms smuggling through Hodeidah —  also a conduit for 90 percent of food imports — and has demanded the militias withdraw from the port.
Al-Mujalli said the government was not open to negotiations on control of the port. The UN, he said, could play a “supervisory” role, but he rejected the idea of placing management of the port in the hands of a third party.
UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths urged both parties to spare Hodeidah.
“It’s the humanitarian pipeline to the rest of the country,” he said.
Negotiations also cover a prisoner swap between the two sides and the potential reopening of Sanaa airport, located in the Houthi-occupied capital and largely shut down for three years. 
The government is demanding planes be searched in one of two government-controlled areas — Aden or Sayoun — en route to or from Sanaa.
“We are keen on the opening of Sanaa airport, and we demand the opening of Sanaa airport and we know that the Yemeni citizen should have the right to reach any country in the world through Sanaa airport,” said Abdulaziz Jabari, a presidential adviser and member of a Yemeni government delegation at the talks.
“But... we are looking into who will supervise Sanaa airport,” Jabari said, adding that the airport could serve as a hub for domestic flights.
But Houthis on Friday turned down the government demand.”Sanaa airport is an international airport,” said Houthi representative Abdulmalik Al-Ajri.


US to leave 200 troops in Syria for a period of time - White House

A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria. (US Army photo)
Updated 47 min 36 sec ago
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US to leave 200 troops in Syria for a period of time - White House

  • The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

WASHINGTON: The United States will leave “a small peacekeeping group” of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout, the White House said on Thursday.
President Donald Trump in December ordered a withdrawal of the 2,000 American troops in Syria on the defeat of the last remnants of the Islamic State militancy there.
But he has been under pressure from some advisers to adjust his policy to ensure the protection of Kurdish forces who supported the fight against Islamic State and who might now be threatened by Turkey.
“A small peacekeeping group of about 200 will remain in Syria for a period of time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a brief statement.
The decision was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
A White House statement said that the two leaders agreed, regarding Syria, to “continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone.”
They noted that acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joseph Dunford would be hosting their Turkish counterparts in Washington this week for further talks, the White House said.