Opposing sides in the Yemen conflict are gearing up for talks in Sweden, but few Yemenis appear to be very optimistic that any lasting solution to the nearly 4-year-old war will be reached.
Arab media showed Houthi negotiators boarding a Kuwaiti airliner at the main airport in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, as they headed to Sweden in the company of U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths for talks with a delegation from the internationally recognized government of President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi.
Abdel Mejid al Halash, a top negotiator for the Houthi delegation, told journalists before leaving Sanaa that his team hoped to achieve a number of objectives.
He said humanitarian issues were important, including reopening ports and airports, exchanging prisoners and resolving economic issues. The world community, he said, talks about human rights, so he said blockades and closed airports were clearly in conflict with international resolutions.
Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, who will represent the Hadi government at the talks, told Arab media that his side insisted that "the Houthis hand over the port of Hodeida to [the Hadi government] and all revenues from the port be handed over to the central bank branch in Aden," under the control of forces loyal to Hadi.
Both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have been fighting for control of the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which is a major source of revenue for whoever controls it and a key entry point for humanitarian aid and food in general to Sanaa.
Abdallah al Rabaie, who heads the Saudi-run King Salman Aid and Relief Center, warned that the Houthis should not use humanitarian aid to determine policy. He said Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies oppose the use of the humanitarian situation in the country to score political or military points in the conflict. He also said the Houthis were not allowing aid to enter all areas of the country.
Yemen analyst Adam Baron told VOA that while the "scene is now set for [talks in Sweden]," following the transport of wounded Houthi fighters to Oman, he was concerned that the impending negotiations would be a "fraught process."
"Getting this to work," he argued, "involves getting a lot of moving parts in order, [and] all it takes is for one of them to go awry for the whole thing to collapse."
No real hope
Aref Sarmi, a Yemeni analyst in Cairo, was not optimistic about the chances of success at the U.N.-sponsored talks in Sweden.
Sarmi said he did not expect anything surprising or earthshaking to come out of the talks. He said he thought the importance of the talks lay in the fact that the opposing parties were attending, as well as in the temporary truce that will allow Yemenis to breathe.
Khaled, a businessman in Sanaa, voiced pessimism. He told pro-Yemeni government media that he would love to see a resolution of the conflict but had no real hope this would happen, and he worried that the talks had been cobbled together without any real preparation.
Kuwait, which hosted a previous round of Yemen negotiations, is sending a delegation to help facilitate the discussions between the opposing sides in Sweden.