Yemen government says Houthis ‘not serious’ at UN talks

Rana Ghanem, member of a Yemeni government's delegation, speaks to journalists during the ongoing peace talks held in Rimbo, 50km north of Stockholm, Sweden, December 8, 2018. (AFP / TT NEWS AGENCY)
Updated 08 December 2018

Yemen government says Houthis ‘not serious’ at UN talks

  • Both Yemeni parties have threatened to leave the talks if certain demands are not met
  • The last round of talks in 2016 broke down in Kuwait after more than three months of negotiations

RIMBO: The Houthi militia is “not serious” on finding common ground to end the devastating war in Yemen, a member of the government delegation to the UN-brokered talks in Sweden told AFP Saturday. 
Nearly four years into a war that has pushed 14 million Yemenis to the brink of starvation, the Saudi-backed government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the Houthi militia, linked to Iran, are in the rural town of Rimbo for what UN officials expect will be a week of negotiations.
“Expectations stem from experience, and from experience I would say no, they are not serious,” said Rana Ghanem, a member of the government delegation to the talks.
“But our hope ... is that this will help alleviate the tension, and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people,” said Ghanem, the only woman in either delegation.
The last round of talks in 2016 broke down in Kuwait after more than three months of negotiations.
A plan to host the warring parties in Geneva collapsed in September after the rebels refused to leave the capital Sanaa, citing safety concerns.
Government representatives, Houthi spokesmen and UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths have all said the talks are not aimed at finding a political solution to the conflict.
Both Yemeni parties have threatened to leave the talks if certain demands are not met.
Ghanem confirmed the two parties had not yet met face-to-face, with Griffiths and his team shuttling between the delegations.
The feuding sides had, however, been chatting “informally” in the halls, she said.
Among the issues under discussion are the country’s failed economy, potential humanitarian corridors, a prisoner swap, the reopening of the defunct Sanaa international airport, and Hodeida, the rebel-held city at the heart of an ongoing government offensive.
The government has held firm to its demand that the Houthis evacuate the western governorate of Hodeidah, home to a Red Sea port that is the entry point for 90 percent of food imports to impoverished Yemen, and hand the area over to security forces.
The Houthis, however, refused that demand Friday.

And Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani said on Saturday the Houthi-held port of Hodeidah must be handed over to the government.

"We accept that the port works under the administration that ran the port in 2014," Khaled Al-Yamani told AFP.

The rebels seized Hodeida, Yemen's most valuable port, located on the Red Sea, in a takeover of territory in 2014.

Al-Yamani added that Aden will be home to the country's main airport. 

"We have a vision that Aden will be the sovereign airport of Yemen," Khaled Al-Yamani told AFP in his first interview since the talks opened in Sweden on Thursday.

A government proposal to turn Sanaa internatonal airport into a domestic airport was also rejected by the Houthis Friday.
Sanaa airport has been largely shut for three years, during which the Arab coalition took control of Yemen’s sea and airspace.
The coalition accuses the rebels of smuggling arms from Iran through Hodeidah and Sanaa airport. Tehran denies the charge.
The Houthis, northern tribesmen who hail from the minority Zaidi Shiite community, overran the capital and a string of ports in a territorial takeover in 2014.
Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened to bolster the Hadi government’s standing.

Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

Updated 5 min ago

Erdogan’s son-in-law leaves sovereign wealth fund

ANKARA: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law quit as the deputy head of Turkey’s huge sovereign wealth fund, completing a fall from grace that began with his surprise resignation as finance minister.
Berat Albayrak had been viewed as Turkey’s second most powerful figure until his chaotic departure from the government at the start of the month.
Married to the Turkish leader’s elder daughter, the 42-year-old quit as finance minister in a cryptic November 8 message on Instagram that cited health reasons.
His resignation from the helm of the Turkish economy was ignored by state media for more than 24 hours, until it was formally accepted by Erdogan the next night.
Albayrak’s two-year tenure as economy chief saw the lira lose 40 percent of its value against the dollar and the central bank burn though most of its reserves in trying to defend the currency.
His departure was linked to Erdogan’s appointment of a new market-friendly central banker whom Albayrak had strongly opposed.
Naci Agbal, the new central bank governor, sharply raised the main interest rate at his first policy meeting last week, helping the lira halt its slide.
Yet Albayrak still held on to his post as deputy head of the sovereign wealth fund, which was created in 2016 and now manages state assets officially valued at $22.6 billion.
Erdogan’s office said little about Albayrak’s departure, noting in a one-sentence statement that he “left the board of the sovereign wealth fund of Turkey after asking to take leave.”
He was appointed as its deputy head in 2018, the same year Erdogan became its official chief.