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Yemen: Agreement to reopen Sanaa airport

Yemen's new Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed [AlArabya]

Yemen’s warring parties agreed on Wednesday to reopen Sanaa airport in the Houthi-held capital, sources said, as Western nations pressed the two sides to accept confidence-building steps before the end of UN-led peace talks in Sweden, says Reuters.

The Iranian-aligned Houthi movement and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi were still discussing a United Nations proposal on the contested port city of Hudaydah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis facing starvation.

Hadi’s PM, Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, told reporters in the government’s base in the southern port of Aden that there might not be enough time for full agreement on Hudaydah as the talks, the first in over two years, concludes on Thursday.

READ: Houthis reject government proposals over Sanaa airport in Yemen peace talks

“We talked about (it) a lot but with the limited time we have, we can’t talk about all the points in this round. The important thing is to build confidence and then go into the details of the Hudaydah file,” he said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is due to attend the final day of talks to support his envoy’s efforts to launch a political process to end the nearly four-year-old war. Another round of talks could be held in early 2019.

The Houthis hold most population centres, including Hudaydah and Sanaa from which it ousted Hadi’s government in 2014.

A UN spokeswoman said both parties had received a “final package” of agreements on the status of Hudaydah, Sanaa airport, a political framework and shoring up the economy. “We hope to receive positive responses,” she said.

The two parties agreed that international flights would stop at a government-held airport for inspections before flying in or out of Sanaa, two sources familiar with the talks said.

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They have yet to agree on whether those inspections would be in Aden airport or that of Sayun, the sources added.

The Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in the war in 2015 to restore Hadi’s government controls Yemen’s airspace.

The coalition has faced increased scrutiny from Western allies, some of which supply it with arms and intelligence, over the war that has killed tens of thousands of people.

READ: UN proposes Yemen’s warring parties pull out of key port

Ambassadors from countries that are permanent members of the Security Council have joined talks with delegation chiefs.

The sides have also yet to agree on shoring up the central bank, and on a transitional governing body, although a deal was struck on a prisoner swap that could see 15,000 prisoners freed.

A small group of Yemenis demonstrated outside the talks venue in Rimbo, north of Stockholm, waving the flags of former South Yemen in support of a separatist movement that is fighting alongside the coalition while trying to undermine Hadi’s government.

War in Yemen – Cartoon [Cartoon Latuff/MiddleEastMonitor]

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