ALGIERS – Inter-Yemeni peace talks opened on Thursday in Stockholm (Sweden) under the auspices of the United Nations, in a context of humanitarian distress, between the government and the armed Ansarullah (Houthis) movement.
These negotiations represent for the Yemeni people an opportunity to even the end of the tunnel in which it was dragged, four years ago when the crisis broke out making until then more than 10,000 dead and 14 million people on the verge of famine.
Prerequisites were posed mutually by the belligerents. On the one hand, the government demanded the "full withdrawal" of the Houthis from the port city of al Hodeida (west) conquered in 2014 and through which most of the humanitarian aid passes.
For their part, the Ansarullah movement has threatened to prevent UN planes from using the airport of the capital Sanaa if the talks in Sweden do not result in the resumption of civil air traffic.
The international airport was closed to civilian commercial traffic after the military intervention in 2015 of the pro-government coalition led by Saudi Arabia. In a column published Thursday by the New York Times, UN mediator Martin Griffiths of Britain said he hoped the talks "bring good news for al Hodeida and the Yemeni people."
All attempts to end the war have failed so far. Discussions began at 11:00 am (10:00 GMT) and will last for a week, according to a UN source. "These political consultations in Sweden are a first step in putting Yemen back on the road to peace," says Martin Griffiths.
Negotiations take place as the country goes through one of the most dramatic humanitarian situations in the world, according to the UN. Nearly 80 percent of Yemen's population, or approximately 24 million people, "now need some form of protection and humanitarian assistance," according to the UN.
Currently, the World Food Program (WFP) is helping about 8 million people and the UN hopes to raise this figure to 12 million by 2019. UNICEF Regional Director Geert Cappelaere has called for Wednesday the belligerents "going to Sweden to think first of the children" of Yemen, of which seven million suffer from poor nutrition.
The principle of concessions put forward
Talks in Sweden have been favored by two factors: the strong international pressure exerted on Saudi Arabia since the October 2 assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his consulate in Istanbul, and the evacuation on Monday of 50 Houthis wounded to Oman.
An agreement to exchange hundreds of prisoners has also been concluded. The inclusive negotiations between the antagonists of the crisis in Yemen are held near Rimbo, in the conference center of Johannesberg Castle, located about fifty kilometers north of Stockholm.
United Nations Representative Martin Griffiths called on the belligerents to accept "the fundamental principle of concessions in any negotiation". "I do not want to be too optimistic, but I want to be ambitious," he told reporters in the presence of Yemeni delegations.
According to Mr. Griffiths, the belligerents are not yet at peace talks. The "consultations" in Sweden are initially intended to "build confidence" and "reduce violence" on the ground, he said, shortly before the opening of talks, Government and Houthis, which should not to speak to each other directly
In September, peace talks stalled the Houthi negotiators' refusal to travel to Geneva without a guarantee on their return trip to the capital Sanaa and the evacuation of their wounded members to Oman.
The conflict in Yemen pits the Ansarullah movement against supporters of the government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, supported militarily by Saudi Arabia. Starting in 2014 from their stronghold in northern Yemen, the Houthis took control of vast areas, including the capital and port of al Hodeida.
In March 2015, neighboring Saudi Arabia took the lead in a military coalition to help power stop the Houthi's progress.