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

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)

Media blitz as Palestinians oppose ‘Deal of the Century’

Updated 26 June 2019

Media blitz as Palestinians oppose ‘Deal of the Century’

  • A number of Palestinian officials talked to a number of media outlets in an attempt to counter the US narrative

AMMAN: Palestinian officials, activists and the public at large stood unusually united on Tuesday in their opposition to the US-led, economic-based Israeli-Palestinian peace effort. They launched a wide-ranging public and media blitz in protest against the start of the two-day Peace to Prosperity economic workshop in Bahrain.

Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Milhem told Arab News that watching Jared Kushner make his opening speech at the workshop about the so-called “Deal of the Century” reminded him of the financial machinations of Wall Street.

“I saw a salesman trying to push a particular product, talking about numbers and opportunities without the slightest interest in the fact that he was talking about our lives and our situation,” he said.

Milhem and other Palestinian officials talked to a number of media outlets in an attempt to counter the US narrative. President Mahmoud Abbas, who presides over a divided authority that is in perpetual financial crisis and depends on donor nations, invited members of the Foreign Press Association to his Ramallah headquarters. “We need the money and, really, we need assistance,” he told them. “But before everything, there is a political solution.”

Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh appeared on the Christiane Amanpour program on CNN International and wrote a column for the Washington Post headlined “Palestinians want freedom not Trump administration bribes.”

After Kushner’s speech, political analyst Lamis Andoni said that Palestinians are being asked to accept that if the prison conditions under which they live are to improve, the occupation
will continue. The US proposal is designed to silence Palestinians by giving them enough to survive, while giving a minority the chance to get rich, he said. “It didn’t work before and will not work now,” he added.

Husam Zulmot, head of the Palestine mission in the UK and former head of the Washington DC mission, said: “Palestine is not for sale.” He described Kushner’s plan as “deceptive” and “disingenuous,” arguing that it does not address the core issue: the occupation.

In Nablus, the deputy head of Fatah, Mahmoud Aloul, issued a stern warning to Arab participants in the Bahrain workshop: “We tell our brothers that they have stabbed us in the back and your intervention in our cause has gone overboard and we will not allow that.” He qualified this by adding: “The US and Israel will continue to be our enemy but we will not consider you enemies; we will leave you to your own people and hope that your hibernation will not last long.”

The Palestinian Al Quds daily newspaper ran the front page headline “Opposition to the Deal of the Century hold protests throughout the homeland and the diaspora,” with a photo of the demonstrations in Ramallah covering the rest of the front page. It also published a two-page supplement quoting politicians from a number of movements, including Fatah and Hamas, along with analysts and pundits, all criticizing the Manama workshop.

Hani Elmasri, the head of the Masarat think tank in Ramallah. wrote an article in which he said that the “Trump deal will not succeed without a Palestinian cover, and will fail sooner or later, but while the plan has not succeed in liquidating Palestinian nationalism it has succeeded in stressing the facts of the occupation and made the possibility of a Palestinian struggle much more difficult. This means that it is not enough for Palestinians to reject this plan but they need to respond with a holistic strategy that must be political, economic and has to be a struggle by the people on all levels.”