by Fuad Rajeh
ADEN, Yemen, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- UN-sponsored peace talks to build confidence between the Yemeni warring parties kicked off Thursday in Sweden in the first step to resume the political process which ceased in 2016.
However, the consultations are indirect, with the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, talking to the delegations of the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government separately.
This is not a good start.
Also, controversial issues, especially Hodeidah, add complications to the political process.
The Yemeni government insists on retaking Hodeidah province where its forces, with support from a Saudi-led coalition, have been engaged in battles with the Houthis for months.
Moreover, it insists on implementing the UN Security Council's resolution 2216 which calls for Houthis' withdrawal from cities and handover of heavy weapons.
Griffiths said at a news conference at the opening of the consultations that the talks are being focused on Hodeidah, reopening airports, the economy, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and releasing all prisoners.
Shortly before heading for Sweden, the government and the Houthis started arrangements for the release of all prisoners and detainees and all they need to agree on during the consultations is suitable mechanism to make that a reality.
"These political consultations in Sweden are the first step toward putting Yemen on the path to peace," Griffiths said.
"I hope that by the end of this round, the Yemeni parties will agree on the outline of an eventual comprehensive agreement, which will then be submitted to the United Nations secretary general and then to the Security Council for endorsement," he added.
Any peace agreement should be based on the UN resolutions, the Gulf Initiative, and the outcomes of the national dialog conference which was attended by all Yemeni factions during 2013, he pointed out.
The Yemeni warring parties have held several rounds of peace talks since the conflict began after Houthis seized power in late 2014.
However, all talks collapsed, leading to more violence on the ground.
Observers argued that the Houthis will not accept to give up their arms and preconditions indicate all parties still don't have goodwill to reach a peace deal.
Abbas Al-Dhaleai, a political commentator, said "the political process after what Saudi Arabia has done and spent in Yemen means a defeat to Saudi Arabia. The Gulf kingdom will not accept defeat. It wants to disarm the Houthis, a thing that can't be achieved in reality."
"The Houthis have been taking advantage of the Saudi-led coalition's confusion and political and military failures. But the most important thing is that they are not statesmen, but militants. They can't imagine themselves living without arms," Al-Dhaleai added.
Adil Al-Shuja'a, a politics professor from Sanaa university, said foreign actors don't want to end the conflict in Yemen because they want to sell more arms.
"The U.S. President Donald Trump, for example, has been saying that the U.S. will continue to back the Saudi-led coalition, ignoring the high humanitarian cost of this war," he said.
"Big powers such as the U.S., the UK and France have convinced the world that they are arms dealers, not peace makers," the professor added.
Peace talks between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels, coordinated by the UN, started on Thursday at Johannesberg Castle, about 60 kilometers north of Stockholm, Sweden.
The talks are expected to last for one week, depending on the consultations' progress, according to Hanan Eldawadi, chief public information officer at the office of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen (OSESGY).
The Yemeni government delegation landed at Stockholm Arlanda Airport Wednesday afternoon, while the delegation of the Houthi rebels, together with Griffiths, arrived in Sweden on Tuesday evening.