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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 February 2019

Yemen’s UN envoy makes last-ditch attempt to save peace talks in Kuwait

Yemen’s government had said it would leave the talks on Saturday after the Houthi rebels made an agreement with the political party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to form a supreme council to unilaterally run Yemen.
The United Nations' special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, speaks during a press conference at the ministry of information in Kuwait City on June 30, 2016. Yasser Al Zayyat/AFP Photo
The United Nations' special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, speaks during a press conference at the ministry of information in Kuwait City on June 30, 2016. Yasser Al Zayyat/AFP Photo

ADEN // The UN’s special envoy asked Yemen’s warring parties to pursue peace negotiations in Kuwait for another week on Saturday after the government said it was quitting talks with the Houthis.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s appeal appeared to be a last-ditch attempt to rescue the four-month negotiations in Kuwait City which are on the verge of collapse.

“I met today with both delegations [and] suggested a one-week extension to the talks,” said Mr Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

He also proposed a “framework for a solution to the crisis in Yemen” but did not elaborate.

There was no immediate comment from either the Yemeni government or the Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Yemen’s government had said it would leave Kuwait on Saturday after the Houthis made an agreement with the political party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to form a supreme council to unilaterally run Yemen.

Mr Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the agreement, which was made on Thursday, gravely violated UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis “to refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transition in Yemen”.

Political analyst and the head of the Aden-based Madar Strategic Studies Centre, Fadhl Al Rabei, said the government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi viewed the agreement between the Houthis and Mr Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) as a “new coup” against its legitimacy.

“The Houthis wanted to send a message of challenge to the government and the Saudi-led military coalition by making its agreement with the GPC,” he added.

The Iran-backed Houthis are allied with renegade soldiers loyal to Mr Saleh. Together, they have taken over the capital, Sanaa, as well as large parts of the rest of the country, forcing Mr Hadi’s internationally-recognised government to operate out of the southern city of Aden.

The supreme council will replace the Houthis’ revolutionary committee which the rebels formed in February last year to replace the Yemeni parliament and presidency.

“It has become clear to the world that the Houthis and Ali Saleh cannot understand the language of peace and they only can understand the language of force, so I think that a military solution” is the only answer, Mr Al Rabei said.

Also on Saturday, warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition – which is fighting to reinstate Mr Hadi’s government – bombed Houthis trying to infiltrate Saudi Arabia from Yemen, killing tens of militiamen.

The bombing took place on the Yemeni side of the border close to the Saudi city of Najran. Clashes between the Saudis and Houthis also took place in the northwestern Yemeni town of Haradh which borders the kingdom.

Elsewhere, the Houthis tried to advance in the Karesh area of Yemen’s southern Lahj province towards Al Anad airbase where UAE forces are training Yemeni army recruits, but were blocked by pro-government forces.

The flare-up in fighting along the Saudi-Yemeni border was one of the worst since peace talks between Mr Hadi’s government and the Houthis began in Kuwait in April, seeking to end the country’s 16-month conflict. A truce that began alongside the talks has slowed the momentum of fighting, but violence continues almost daily.

Late on Friday, the Saudi-led coalition denied accusations from rights groups that it is blocking aid and goods bound for Yemen.

“The coalition is not imposing a siege or an economic boycott on Yemeni territory,” the Riyadh-based coalition said in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

The coalition “is fulfilling its duties towards implementing UN resolutions that aim to prevent weapons and ammunitions” reaching Yemen.

foreign.desk@thenational.ae

*With additional reporting by Agence France-Presse and Reuters

Updated: July 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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