Talks between Iran-backed Huthis, armed tribesmen from northern Yemen, and a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia opened in Rimbo, Sweden Photo: TT News Agency/AFP
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Yemen peace talks begin in Sweden

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By Stina STJERNKVIST

Yemen's Huthi rebels will assess the "seriousness" of fragile U.N.-brokered talks with the rival government in Sweden on Friday, the head of the delegation said.

"We have no problem holding talks with the other side," Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdelsalam said Thursday, as the first day of the talks wound down.

"We will judge whether the Stockholm talks are serious or not tomorrow," Abdelsalam told the Arabic-language Al-Mayadeen television channel.

Talks between the Iran-backed Huthis, armed tribesmen from northern Yemen, and a pro-government military coalition led by Saudi Arabia opened on Thursday in Rimbo, Sweden, a rural area some 60 kilometers north of Stockholm.

They are expected to last a week, a U.N. official told reporters.

The meeting marks the first time warring Yemeni parties have officially met since 2016, when more than 100 days of negotiations in Kuwait yielded no breakthrough in the devastating conflict.

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said he was cautiously optimistic the talks would help find common ground between the warring parties, particularly over the fate of rebel-held city of Hodeida.

The Red Sea city has been the target of a Saudi-led offensive to drive the Huthis out.

Hodeida is home to Yemen's most valuable port, the entry point of 90 percent of all food imports to a country at the brink of famine.

Members of the rebel and government delegations in Sweden however traded accusations of aggression, refusing to compromise on Hodeida.

The government is demanding the full withdrawal of the rebels from the city and port. The Huthis, however, have refused to evacuate Hodeida.

The United Nations now qualifies Yemen as home to the world's largest humanitarian crisis, with 14 million people at risk of famine and one child dying every 10 minutes of preventable causes.

The conflict between the Saudi-backed government and armed rebels has killed more than 10,000 people in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world.

© 2018 AFP

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

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To think Yemen ever had anything resembling a government is a joke. Much like Afghanistan it is a nation of warring tribes and stability has always been an illusion. The war started in response to calls from the interim Yemeni president for military support after he was ousted by a Houthi coup.

The Saudis expected a quick victory that would put the legal government back in power. Instead they got a war of attrition.

Iran, seeing an opportunity, is funding and supporting this war, spending millions with the goal of creating a client state with a Saudi border from which they can slowly strangle the Monarchy.

Last July, Houthi rebels attacked a loaded Saudi oil tanker near the Bab el-Mandeb strait forcing a suspension of oil shipments. The Yemenis may set targets for long-range missiles but they are unquestionably launched by Iranians, since the Yemenis lack the skill to do so. Their intent is to claim jurisdiction over the approaches to the Red Sea, much like Iran is attempting to control the Strait of Hormuz.

The ability to interdict tanker traffic in the Red Sea as well as in the Persian Gulf would result in having Iran control the flow of world oil. Saudi sees this as a war to the death.

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