UN envoy to Yemen says agreement on de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah ‘not there yet’

The Sweden talks mark the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict. (AFP)
Updated 11 December 2018
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UN envoy to Yemen says agreement on de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah ‘not there yet’

LONDON: United Nations Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said on Monday that agreement on the de-escalation in Taiz and Hodeidah are ‘not there yet’.
Speaking at a press conference in Stockholm, during the first round of the UN sponsored peace talks between the legitimate Yemeni government and the Iranian-backed Houthi militia, Griffiths told reporters that they will continue to discuss Hodeidah and Taiz, which he described as “two major population zones in Yemen caught in war.”
The warring parties are in Sweden for weeklong talks expected to last until Dec. 13, the first since more than three months of negotiations collapsed in 2016.
“I’m hopeful that we can reach agreements on the de-escalation to reduce the fighting in both places. I’m hoping that we can. We’re not there yet.”
“If we are able to achieve progress on those two places and lift the threat of war to the people in those two places, I think we’ll have done a great service to Yemen,” Griffiths said.
Initial drafts of the proposals on the rebel-held port city of Hodeidah and Taiz call for a mutual cease-fire between the two parties.
The Hodeidah draft stipulated that the Arab coalition supporting the legitimate Yemeni government would cease an offensive on the rebel-held city in exchange for a Houthi withdrawal.
The area would then be put under the control of a joint committee and supervised by the United Nations. The document does not propose the deployment of UN peacekeeping troops.
Griffiths said the UN had simplified the Hodeidah draft, which is still under study by the Yemeni delegations.
“We are always redrafting, so some of those documents that you’ve seen” have changed, Griffiths told reporters.
“We’re working on simpler draft,” he added. “The details of that are in deep discussion.”
The two sides are also looking at a draft UN proposal on the southwestern city of Taiz, under the control of pro-government forces but besieged by the rebels.
The initial draft stipulated an unconditional cease-fire, a joint working group that includes the UN to monitor the cease-fire, and the reopening of all roads and Taiz airport for humanitarian operations.
The Yemeni government, which is backed by the Arab coalition, has been battling the Iran-backed Houthi militia for control of Yemen for nearly four years, pushing the impoverished country to the brink of famine.
He also said they are still working to find a common ground for the reopening of Sanaa airport.
During the talks, the two sides discussed a broad prisoner swap, which Griffiths said had proved the least contentious issue, adding that he hoped it “will be very very considerable in terms of the numbers that we hope to get released within a few weeks.” He said the numbers of prisoners to be released by the warring parties will be announced soon.
The UN envoy said he expects to present a detailed plan for the next round of talks and hopes for an agreement from warring factions to hold the next round of talks early next year.

(With AFP)


New Qatari funds for Hamas employees expected this week: official

Updated 8 min 23 sec ago
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New Qatari funds for Hamas employees expected this week: official

  • The $15 million funds are expected to reach Gaza in the upcoming few days and be distributed immediately
  • The funds will cover salaries of around 40,000 Hamas civil servants

GAZA CITY: A fresh tranche of Qatari funds for Hamas civil servants in Gaza will be delivered via Israel this week, the Qatar ambassador to the Palestinian enclave said Monday.
Mohammed Al-Emadi is expected to bring the $15 million into the strip in the coming days, with funds to be distributed immediately.
“We are due to go to Gaza before the end of the week, most likely on Wednesday night,” Emadi told AFP by message from Doha. “We will pay the third payment,” he added, referring to two payments in previous months.
The funds pay the salaries of roughly 40,000 Hamas civil servants, as well as providing financial assistance to poor families in the empoverished strip.
They are injected with Israeli blessings after an informal truce deal between the Jewish state and the strip’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
Under the deal months of Hamas-backed protests along the border remain relatively quiet.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced right-wing criticism of the agreement, with his defense minister resigning in November accusing him of being soft on Hamas.
Separately Monday the World Health Organization warned it was “concerned” over the impact of critical fuel shortages in Gaza.
The strip suffers from chronic energy shortages, though the crisis had been eased in recent months with Qatar also allowed to import fuel to run Gaza’s sole power plant.
“The functionality of Gaza’s 14 public hospitals is increasingly jeopardized by electricity shortages,” the WHO said in a statement.
“Several of the most severely impacted hospitals have already put rationalization measures in place.
“Drastic service reductions, including closures of wards and hospitals, are imminent,” it added, saying hospitals had fuel reserves for only a few more days.