Yemen's presidential council chief 'refused to meet UN envoy in Aden'

Rashad Al Alimi's move was to say 'no more concessions' as UN seeks to extend ceasefire with rebels

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg, left, was met by Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak, right, at the presidential palace in Aden. Photo: Yemen government
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The head of Yemen's presidential council Rashad Al Alimi refused to meet UN special envoy Hans Grundberg when he visited Aden this week on a regional tour to extend a truce between the government and Houthi rebels, two people close to the eight-member Presidential Leadership Council headed by Mr Alimi told The National.

They said the apparent snub was partially over the UN's failure to convince the Houthi rebels to reopen the roads around the country's third largest city of Taez, which remains besieged.

Under the conditions of the nationwide truce, which began in April, the Houthis are required to open roads around Taez to give residents access to aid and allow them to travel freely.

“The government has so far done more than the Houthis have to keep the truce going, including allowing oil vessels to enter the port of Hodeidah, opening Sanaa airport, and even looking the other way when the Houthis have sent people with illegitimate passports to Cairo and Amman,” one of the sources said.

“The president's refusal to meet Mr Grundberg was his way of saying: no more concessions from our side if the Houthi side will not abide by its end of the bargain.”

Mr Grundberg was instead met by Foreign Minister Ahmad Awad bin Mubarak at the presidential palace in Aden.

“Twenty flights between Sanaa and Amman and two flights between Sanaa and Cairo have so far taken place until July 22, transporting over 10,000 passengers,” the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday following the meeting.

Houthi shelling of Taez last week killed one child and wounded 10 others. The UN, Yemeni government and international community condemned the attack.

“The killing and injuring of children is particularly reprehensible,” Mr Grundberg said in a statement.

“The people of Taez have suffered immensely through seven years of war and they, too, need the truce to deliver for them, in all its aspects.”

Mr Al Alimi recently met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Saudi Arabia when US President Joe Biden was in the kingdom for a summit of leaders from the Gulf Co-operation Council states, where Yemen was one of the subjects of discussion.

The second source, who has a personal relationship with Mr Al Alimi, said his refusal to meet Mr Grundberg was also a “show of strength” for the Yemeni people.

“He wanted to appear as a decision maker and not subject to decisions made by others,” they said.

Yemen is in its eighth year of war since the Houthis took over the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting the formation of a Saudi-led coalition to support the internationally-recognised government.

Updated: July 28, 2022, 5:32 PM
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