Yemen government demands UN action over rebel shelling of Taez
KUWAIT CITY // The Yemeni government delegation at peace talks in Kuwait on Thursday demanded action from the United Nations over rebel shelling of the besieged city of Taez.
Foreign minister Abdulmalek Al Mekhlafi said the artillery fire by the rebels was in contravention of undertakings they had given when face-to-face negotiations resumed on Wednesday following a three-day walkout by his team.
Mr Al Mekhlafi said his negotiators had submitted proposals to UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed for implementing an April 11 ceasefire in Taez, where loyalist troops have been under rebel siege for months, trapping tens of thousands of civilians.
“We received a racist response” from the rebels, the minister said on Twitter.
Mr Al Mekhlafi accused the rebels and their allies in renegade army units still loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh of targeting civilians in Taez.
He warned that the rebel shelling would “have serious consequences on the peace process” unless the international community honoured its undertakings to shore up the fragile ceasefire.
The government delegation pulled out of the peace talks on Sunday in protest at the rebels’ overrunning an army base in Amran province on Saturday night in what it said was a clear breach of the truce.
Speaking later on Thursday, Mr Cheikh Ahmed expressed concern over what he said were numerous violations of the truce and warned that these hindered the efforts towards peace. The peace talks opened in Kuwait on April 21 but the first round of face-to-face negotiations was held only on Saturday.
There has been mounting international pressure to end the conflict that has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year.
Al Qaeda and ISIL have taken advantage of the conflict to seize territory and stage attacks. The government and the Saudi-led military coalition supporting it, in which the UAE is playing a leading role, recently turned their sights on the extremists in southern Yemen. They drove Al Qaeda militants from Aden in March and last month retook the port city of Mukalla, which Al Qaeda had held for a year.
On Thursday, Al Qaeda militants began withdrawing from two cities east of Aden following tribal-led negotiations, security officials and witnesses said.
“Hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters have begun to hand over to provincial authorities public buildings which they controlled” in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province and the nearby city of Jaar, a tribal mediator said.
Meanwhile, Aden’s civilian airport reopened on Thursday after months of closure due to security concerns. The first passenger plane arrived from Jordan around midday, said Tarek Abdu Ali, the airport chief.
Aden was retaken from the Houthis by government forces backed by the coalition last summer.
* Agence France-Presse and Associated Press
Updated: May 5, 2016 04:00 AM