Yemen talks go down to the wire

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Houthi delegate Abdelqader Mourtada, left, and the Yemeni government delegate Brig. Gen. Asker Zaeel, shake hands during the peace talks near Stockholm. (AFP)
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Representatives of the Houthi militia delegation (L) and representatives of the Yemeni government’s delegation (R) pose for a picture with representatives from the office of the UN Special Envoy for Yemen and the International Red Cross Committee (ICRC) during the ongoing peace talks on Yemen held at Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo, north of Stockholm, Sweden, December 11, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 13 December 2018
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Yemen talks go down to the wire

  • The two parties agreed that international flights would stop at a government-held airport for inspections before flying in or out of Sanaa

JEDDAH: Both sides in the Yemen conflict agreed on Wednesday to reopen Sanaa airport and resume oil and gas exports.

But agreement on the Red Sea port of Hodeidah and a cooperation deal on the crumbling economy remained elusive as the clock ticked down to the last day of talks.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due in Rimbo, Sweden, for Thursday’s closing round of consultations. Another round of talks has been tentatively scheduled for January.

A UN spokeswoman said both sides had received a “final package” of agreements on the status of Hodeidah, a political framework and shoring up the economy. “We hope to receive positive responses,” she said.

The two parties agreed that international flights would stop at a government-held airport for inspections before flying in or out of Sanaa. They have yet to agree on whether those inspections will be in Aden airport or Sayun.

Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said there may not be enough time for full agreement on Hodeidah before the talks, the first in over two years, conclude on Thursday.

“We talked about it a lot but with the limited time we have, we can’t talk about all the points in this round. The important thing is to build confidence and then go into the details of the Hodeidah file,” he said.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths is trying to avert a full-scale assault on Hodeidah by Yemen government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and is asking both sides to withdraw from the city.

His proposal is for an interim entity to run the city and port and for the deployment of international monitors.

Both sides have agreed to a UN role in the port, but differ on who should run the city. The Iran-backed Houthi miitias want Hodeidah declared a neutral zone, but Yemen’s government argues it is a matter of sovereignty.

“The devil is in the details — withdraw how far from Hodeidah, the sequence, who governs and delivers services,” said one diplomat.


Media blitz as Palestinians oppose ‘Deal of the Century’

Updated 26 June 2019
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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.”