Yemen peace talks stall over lack of progress
Kuwait City // Yemen’s peace talks appeared to have reached an impasse on Sunday after the government pulled out of direct negotiations with the Houthi delegation and the rebels refused to meet the UN mediator.
The government suspended its participation in direct talks citing a lack of progrees on Saturday.
A source close to the government delegation said the talks had reached a delicate stage after “the rebels backtracked to the starting point”, adding “that has complicated the situation”.
The government official said the rebels “went back on their word” to discuss substantive issues in three joint working groups formed on Wednesday when the direct talks resumed.
In a further setback to the talks, Houthi representatives on Sunday refused to attend a meeting with UN Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the Yemen prime minister’s office said.
As a result, meetings of joint political and security committees formed last week were postponed indefinitely, Al Arabiya television reported.
The rebels and their allies are demanding the formation of a consensus transitional government before discussing their compliance with the UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which requires them to surrender arms and withdraw from territories they occupied in 2014.
The rebels have also demanded the withdrawal of a small US force operating in the south of the country against Al Qaeda militants.
On Thursday, Mr Cheikh Ahmed said the two sides had begun discussing major political and security issues in face-to-face negotiations, raising hopes of bringing an end to 13 months of devastating war.
A ceasefire went into force on April 11, ahead of the talks that began on April 21, but both sides have accused the other of violations. The government earlier suspended direct talks with rebels on May 1 in response to a Houthi attack on neutral military base in Amran province, north of the rebel-held capital Sanaa, the day before.
There has been mounting international pressure to end Yemen’s war, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year. The conflict has created a humanitarian crisis with shortages of food, medicines and fuel in many areas, while extremist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIL have taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory and attack Yemeni officials.
Yemeni forces and the Saudi-led coalition backing the government have pushed the extremists from several areas in southern Yemen in recent weeks, including the port city of Mukalla, the capital of Haramawt province that was held by Al Qaeda militants.
On Sunday, an aircraft carrying 20 tonnes of medicines and medical accessories landed in Mukalla as part of the UAE’s ongoing efforts to assist Yemenis affected by the war.
“The plane chartered by the Emirates Red Crescent is the first to land at Mukalla airport since it closed more than a year ago after Al Qaeda entered the city,” airport director Anis Abdel Kader said.
He said work was under way to make the airport operational again, with UAE help, so it can be “used as quickly as possible for commercial flights”.
Special forces from the UAE, a member of the Saudi-led coalition, played a major role in retaking the city.
On Friday, the United States said that “a very small number” of American soldiers were also involved in the operation, acknowledging for the first time that US troops had deployed in Yemen.
* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting from Reuters
Updated: May 8, 2016 04:00 AM