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Yemen rebels rebuff govt demand for Hodeida withdrawal

AFP  |  Rimbo (Sweden) 

Yemen's rebels will not hand over the key to the rival government, a rebel said Friday, as the two parties met for UN-brokered talks in

"This is not on the table," Abdulmalik al-Ajri, a member of the rebel delegation told AFP after the said it was seeking a full withdrawal from the flashpoint port city.

The Iran-backed rebels, locked in a war with the and his allies in a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, control the Red Sea city of Hodeida, a conduit for 90 percent of

The Saudi-led coalition has for months led an offensive to retake Hodeida.

The battle has sparked fears for more than 150,000 civilians trapped in the city.

and its allies accuse the rebels of smuggling arms from through Hodeida as well as the defunct Sanaa international airport, a charge denies.

UN Martin Griffiths, who has pushed for months for the talks, urged both parties to spare Hodeida as the talks opened on Thursday.

Ajri also rebuffed a government suggestion that the defunct be reopened as a hub for domestic flights.

"is an international airport," Ajri said, slamming government-imposed restrictions on the airport as "arbitrary".

The airport was shut down in the aftermath of 2014, when the Huthis overran the capital and a string of Yemeni ports, triggering the intervention of the Saudi-led alliance on behalf of the embattled government the following year.

and its allies have targeted the airport and control Yemeni airspace.

The talks, which opened Thursday, are the first meeting between the warring parties since 2016, when more than three months of negotiations in failed to yield a breakthrough in the war.

The war has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis and pushed the impoverished country to the brink of famine, with 14 million people facing

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, December 07 2018. 23:20 IST