Sweden says it could host Yemen’s warring sides for talks

Soldiers loyal to Saudi-led coalition forces are seen in the southern Yemeni port of Aden on October 29, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2018

Sweden says it could host Yemen’s warring sides for talks

  • Wallstrom said the United Nations has asked her country if it “could be a place for the UN envoy to gather the parties in this conflict”
  • She told Swedish news agency TT that her country would be “happy about it,” but that nothing is definite

COPENHAGEN: Sweden on Wednesday offered to host talks between Yemen’s warring parties as Washington called for an urgent halt to hostilities and the UN special envoy ramped up efforts to revive discussions that failed nearly two months ago.
Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said the United Nations has asked her country if it “could be a place for the UN envoy to gather the parties in this conflict” — the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and Yemen’s Iran-backed Shiite rebels known as Houthis.
Wallstrom told Swedish news agency TT that her country would be “happy about it,” but that nothing is definite.
The possible venue comes as UN envoy Martin Griffiths called on the opposing sides in the 3 1/2-year conflict to heed “recent calls” for a quick resumption of the political process and efforts to win a halt to fighting in Yemen.
The Trump administration late Tuesday called for an urgent halt to the war and a start to negotiations aimed at a political settlement. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked all parties to support Griffiths in what Pompeo said must be “substantive consultations” in November in a third country.
In separate remarks, also Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis called for a cease-fire within 30 days.
Nigel Tricks of the Norwegian Refugee Council welcomed the cease-fire call, saying it could be “the political breakthrough that we have long requested from parties to this brutal war” that has been “four years of hell for Yemeni women, men and children.”
Griffiths urged the concerned parties to “seize this opportunity” and singled out support for “confidence-building measures” such as Yemen’s central bank, a prisoner exchange and the re-opening of the airport in the rebel-held Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
“Dialogue remains the only path to reach an inclusive agreement,” Griffiths said in a statement.
Wallstrom reiterated Sweden’s support for Griffiths, whose efforts to host talks between the government and rebels in Geneva in September ran aground when Houthi representatives didn’t show up, insisting they had not been guaranteed safe return after the discussions.
The conflict in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthis who toppled the internationally recognized government. A Saudi-led coalition allied with the government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The war has killed over 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine. The UN says Yemen is facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
At the beginning of 2017, the UN and its partners provided aid to 3 million hungry Yemenis. Since then, assistance has been scaled up, reaching 8 million people last month because of generous funding from donors, but far below the 14 million people — or half Yemen’s population — who may need it.
Earlier this month, Mark Lowcock, the UN humanitarian chief, warned of “an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen.”


Pakistani pilot who steered first Emirates flight remembers birth of UAE airline

Updated 35 sec ago

Pakistani pilot who steered first Emirates flight remembers birth of UAE airline

  • The historic flight took off from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985
  • Carrier’s success lies in leadership that prioritizes competence, retired captain says

ISLAMABAD: Thirty-five years after he steered the first Emirates flight, retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian says the success of the UAE flag carrier was and remains its competence and merit.

The first Emirates flight, EK600, took off from Dubai to Karachi on Oct. 25, 1985.

Recalling the airline’s birth and having observed its operations for more than three decades, the former chief pilot of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), who flew the Emirates Airbus A300 on its maiden trip, says the UAE flag carrier’s success lies in leadership that prioritizes competence.

“Emirates selects people on merit and they give them responsibility with authority,” he told Arab News in an interview this week. “No outside interference in their job. I am proud that I was a part of competent people who played a role in building Emirates airline from scratch.”

His involvement with Emirates was a result of PIA’s contract with Dubai to provide pilots, engineers and two aircraft to help establish the UAE airline.

“I came to Dubai on Oct. 1, 1985 and met Emirates Airline managing director Maurice Flanagan and their teams,” Mian said. “We discussed the tasks ahead related to the arrival of two aircraft to lay the foundation of the Emirates airline.”

Retired Capt. Fazal Ghani Mian speaks to Arab News in Islamabad on Oct. 28. (AN photo)

“We used to discuss the progress every day and prepare reports, and if there was any problem we found we used to help each other solve it.

“I am grateful to the great leadership of Sheikh Ahmed who was conducting these meetings,” he said, referring to Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and founder of the Emirates Group.

The two aircraft were painted in Emirates colors at a PIA hangar in Karachi, all in secrecy. They were then flown to Dubai.

“On Oct. 18, 1985 a team of engineers, along with two aircraft, arrived at Dubai airport with the Emirates insignia. The aircraft were kept in a hangar at the far corner of the airport away from the public eye,” Mian said.

On Oct. 23, 1985, the Pakistani-Emirati team had to operate five special VIP flights over Dubai.

“On Oct. 22, we received some uniforms very late at night,” the former captain said. “The laundry was closed but a young man working in the hotel took the uniforms and pressed them at his residence and brought it back around midnight.”

“I was praying that nothing bad would happen,” Mian said. “The first Airbus flight was around 11 o’clock and Sheikh Mohammed (bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai) and other royal dignitaries were sitting on the aircraft. We flew over Dubai for 45 minutes and we were escorted by Dubai air force fighter pilots.”

Two days later the UAE flag carrier took off on its first official flight.

“On Oct. 25, we operated the first official flight to Karachi with top royal dignitaries of UAE and employees of Emirates airline on board,” Mian said.

The smooth beginning came with a dream landing.

“Landing was so smooth that nobody realized the aircraft had landed,” Mian said. “This was the beginning of Emirates