Yemen’s warring sides come together for historic talks in Sweden

World Today

Swedish Foreign minister Margot Wallstrom (C,2L), UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths (C, 2R) and delegates of Yemen’s government and Yemen’s Huthi rebels attend the opening press conference of the Yemeni peace talks at Johannesberg castle in Rimbo, Sweden on December 6, 2018. – The Sweden talks mark the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people since 2015 and triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. (Photo by Stina STJERNKVIST / TT News Agency / AFP) / Sweden OUT

Yemen’s warring sides are in Sweden for talks on ending more than three years of civil war. So far, they have agreed to a prisoner swap.

Fighting has killed thousands, in what the U.N. has described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

CGTN’s Mariam Zaidi reports.

Could a remote Swedish town 50 kilometers north of Stockholm take its place in history?

In the town of Rimbo, behind the guarded walls of this local castle, history is in the making. For the first time in two years, the internationally recognized Yemini government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebel forces came face to face. Could a resolution to the ongoing war in Yemen be found here as preliminary peace talks brokered by the U.N. got underway?

“Let us be in no doubt that Yemen’s future is in the hands of those of us in this room. The country’s institutions are at risk. The fragmentation of the country is of enormous concern and we must act now before we lose control of the future of Yemen,” U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths said.

The talks aim to establish a framework for a peace agreement to de-escalate violence that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and to reopen the main airport in Sanaa.

But, the peace talks also provided the opportunity for 12 Yemeni journalists to come to Sweden under the umbrella of a UNESCO initiative to provide impartial coverage.

“The newsroom is led by an editor-in-chief who is actually an expert who has done this work with CFI and UNESCO in many different initiatives in the Arab region. The situation in Yemen now is that the media landscape is very polarized. Where a lot of media are driven by political agendas so there needs to be a third voice that comes that is providing balanced information to the Yemeni public,” UNESCO Marion Desmurger said.

Aid agencies are warning that Yemen is close to a full-blown famine. And they are calling for safer passage to deliver aid in the country.

“Millions of people in Yemen have nothing to eat. Today, the World Food Program is feeding eight million people. By the end of the month, we will scale up to 10 million people. And, by the end of January, 12 million people,” Spokesperson for the World Food Program Herve Verhoosel said.

Yemen has a population of 29 million people, so the situation is getting very desperate. The talks here are expected to go into next week. And, the question remains whether they will get the results needed to bring an end to the suffering.

Adam Baron on Yemen peace talks

CGTN’s Asieh Namdar spoke with Adam Baron, visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations on the issues being discussed at the Yemen peace talks in Sweden.