Fresh clashes erupt between Yemeni-warring sides in Hodeidah amid Sweden peace talks

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-11 06:04:50|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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ADEN, Yemen, Dec. 10 (Xinhua) -- Fresh clashes erupted on Monday night between the Yemeni warring sides near key government facilities in the strategic port city of Hodeidah, residents told Xinhua.

The Yemeni government forces were engaged in heavy armed confrontations with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in the areas surrounding Hodeidah University and in the southern part of the city, according to the residents.

They said heavy weapons, including artillery, were used in the exchange of fire, causing huge blasts in the city which had witnessed a temporary pause in fighting.

Mamun Mahjami, official spokesman of the pro-government Giants Brigades, told Xinhua by phone that the Houthi rebels attacked and attempted to recapture some areas around Hodeidah University.

"Our forces (the Giants Brigades) dealt with the Houthi armed attack and managed to foil it following a few hours of fighting," Mahjami said.

Meanwhile, the government negotiating team in the UN-sponsored peace talks in Sweden started studying a new initiative presented by UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths about Hodeidah.

Sources said the UN envoy's initiative suggests an internationally-monitored withdrawal of both Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces from all areas in Hodeidah.

However, a government official based in Aden said the government rejected the initiative and insisted on full withdrawal of the Houthis from Hodeidah while placing the management of the city's main airport under the government control.

"Our legitimate forces will be ready to expel the Houthis out of the Hodeidah and won't accept the presence of foreign troops," the official said on condition of anonymity.

During a press conference held in Sweden, Griffiths said Hodeidah remains the most difficult issue for the ongoing discussions between the two warring factions.

On Thursday, the UN-sponsored peace talks to build confidence between the Yemeni warring parties kicked off in Sweden in the first step to resume the political process which ceased in 2016.

The Yemeni government strongly insists on retaking Hodeidah Province where its forces, with support from a Saudi-led coalition, have been engaged in ferocious battles with the Houthis for months.

Moreover, it demands to implement the UN Security Council's Resolution 2216 which calls for Houthis' withdrawal from cities and handover of heavy weapons.

The Yemeni warring parties have held several rounds of peace talks since the Houthi rebels seized power in late 2014.

However, all peace talks collapsed and failed to achieve a political solution, leading to more violence on the ground.

Observers say the Houthis are unlikely to agree to surrender their arms as all parties lack goodwill to reach a peace deal.