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.


Iran confirms ‘recent’ missile test amid Western criticism

Updated 11 December 2018
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Iran confirms ‘recent’ missile test amid Western criticism

  • Iran has pressed on with its ballistic missile programme after reining in much of its nuclear programme under a 2015 deal with major powers
  • Iran has developed several types of ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometres

TEHRAN: Iran confirmed on Tuesday that it had carried out a recent test of a medium-range ballistic missile after Western powers sharply criticised a December 1 launch.
"We are continuing our missile tests and this recent one was a significant test," the Fars news agency reported, citing Revolutionary Guards aerospace commander Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh.
"The US reaction showed that it was a big thing for them and that it upset them," the conservative news agency said, adding that Iran carried out between 40 and 50 missile tests a year.
Iran has pressed on with its ballistic missile programme after reining in much of its nuclear programme under a 2015 deal with major powers.
A UN Security Council resolution adopted after the agreement calls on Iran to refrain from testing missiles capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, but does not specifically bar Tehran from missile launches.
The UN Security Council convened at the request of Britain and France on December 4 to discuss the latest test which both governments described as "provocative" and "inconsistent" with Resolution 2231.
Britain said that the types of missiles fired had capabilities that "go way beyond legitimate defensive needs".
Iran has developed several types of ballistic missiles with a range of up to 3,000 kilometres (1,875 miles) -- sufficient to reach Israel and Western bases across the region.
In its report, Fars did not specify the date of the latest test or say which types of missile were fired.
Washington, which quit the nuclear deal in May, described the test as an outright "violation" of Resolution 2231 and called on the Security Council to condemn it.
But veto-wielding Moscow has defended Tehran's right to carry out the missile tests, and the December 4 meeting ended with no joint statement or any plan for follow-up action.
The council is due to meet again on December 19 for a regular review of the resolution's implementation.
Iran has received regular certifications of compliance with the provisions of the nuclear deal from the UN atomic watchdog.
Western criticism has focused instead on Tehran's missile programme and its military interventions in the region.