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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

UAE's Anwar Gargash: Houthis are 'not committed' to Geneva peace talks

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs says conditions set by Iran-backed rebels show they are not dedicated to a political solution in Yemen

Dr Anwar Gargash said the Yemeni government had shown a "positive attitude towards the political solution". AP Photo
Dr Anwar Gargash said the Yemeni government had shown a "positive attitude towards the political solution". AP Photo

The delay by Yemen's Houthi rebels in attending UN-mediated negotiations shows their lack of seriousness about finding a political solution to the country's war, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash said on Friday.

The talks in Geneva were supposed to convene on Thursday but the rebels' representatives were still to leave Yemen on Friday after raising a series of last-minute difficulties. The government negotiating team arrived in the Swiss city on Wednesday and have held several meetings with the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

“When the Houthis feel they are under political and military pressure, they set conditions of transporting hundreds of wounded [fighters] abroad on the eve of the consultations, this portrays how uncommitted they are,” Dr Gargash said on Twitter.

On the other, he said, the government had shown a "positive attitude towards the political solution".

The Houthis first claimed that they had not received authorisation to fly out of Sanaa, the Yemeni capital they seized in 2014, before demanding that wounded rebel fighters be transported to Oman for treatment and a guarantee the delegation would be allowed to return to Yemen.

The Saudi-led military coalition supporting President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi controls Yemen's airspace after intervening in the civil war in 2015.

The Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani dismissed the Houthi demands as "excuses".

"We came to Geneva ... ready and willing to delve into talks" on confidence-building, Mr Al Yamani told the Abu Dhabi-based Sky News channel.

The Houthi failure to arrive on time was "an attempt to cover up something critical, and that is that the insurgents are arguing about who among them will represent them in Geneva", he said.

Diplomatic sources in Geneva told The National on Friday that all sides were working towards getting the Houthi delegation to travel to Geneva.

A source close to the Yemeni delegation told The National that government representatives now expected to stay in Geneva until Sunday.

“We are hopeful for a positive outcome and are here to ensure that a peaceful solution is sustained,” the source said.

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The government delegation released a statement holding the rebels responsible for sabotaging the consultations.

“We are affirming our commitment to finding opportunity to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, to put an end to poverty, hunger and to release detainees,” it said.

"The Houthis have had many chances of sustaining peace, especially in Geneva and in Kuwait."

The talks in Kuwait in 2016 ended after 108 days without an agreement on power-sharing.

Meanwhile, Mr Griffiths on Friday continued consultations with the government delegation.

“Since yesterday he has been discussing with them confidence-building measures, including the issue of prisoners, humanitarian access, the re-opening of Sana’a airport, in addition to economic issues,” the UN envoy's office said.

US Ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller said it will be “disappointing” if the Houthi delegation fails to attend the consultations in Geneva.

“We will continue to do what we are doing, if a meeting doesn’t take place tomorrow, then we will regroup and try to find a way to bring the group in Sanaa together with the government delegation here and give the Yemeni people hope and improvements in their lives,” Mr Tueller said.

“Mr Griffiths is working very hard to get the Houthi delegation to get here, they have said they will come but without conditions, if they don’t then we will all be disappointed,” the US Ambassador said.