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Sanaa

Yemen Peace Talks Set to End Thursday

Voice of America
13 Dec 2018, 14:05 GMT+10

The first peace talks on Yemen in two years are scheduled to end Thursday, with U.N. mediators hoping to make progress on several key issues.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will join the final day of talks near Stockholm to encourage both sides to keep building on what has been achieved so far.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels have agreed on a huge prisoner swap. Reports say they are close to deals to reopen Sanaa's airport, and restart oil and gas exports to help the cash-starved country earn revenue.

But the situation in the rebel-held port of Hodeida is still a major source of contention.

Both sides have rejected an initial proposal to withdraw fighters and arms from the city and turn it over to a temporary U.N. administration.

Nearly all food and humanitarian aid deliveries come through the port, and any hindrance in those deliveries puts more lives at risk.

The Saudi-led coalition backing Yemeni forces says the rebels get Iranian arms thorough the port, a charge Iran denies.

Coalition airstrikes against the Houthis have been widely indiscriminate, wiping out entire civilian neighborhoods and hospitals.

A Saudi missile hit a busload of schoolchildren in August near Sanaa, killing 40. The coalition called the missile strike a 'mistake.'

The U.S. Senate began to debate a measure to end U.S. support to the Saudi military involvement in Yemen.

The lawmakers are not just sickened by the bloodshed and attacks against children. They are upset over the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly at the behest of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and President Donald Trump's tepid criticism of the Saudi government.

Trump is unwilling to anger a major U.S. ally like Saudi Arabia. But he told Reuters Tuesday, 'I hate to see what's going on in Yemen. But it takes two to tango. I'd want to see Iran pull out of Yemen.'

Both sides in the peace talks say they plan to meet again early next year.

The fighting between the Houthis and Yemeni forces broke out in 2014, when the rebels seized the capital, Sanaa. Tens of thousands of people have been killed, including countless civilians.

Many experts say the fighting is a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The U.N. calls Yemen the world's worst humanitarian disaster. With the county on the brink of famine, nearly 80 percent of the population lack enough food, clean water and proper medical care.

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