Houthi last-minute demands delay Yemen peace talks in Geneva

UN Yemen envoy meets with government representatives while Houthi delegation remains in Sanaa

United Nations special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths gives a press conference on September 5, 2018, ahead of peace talks with the government and Huthi rebels in Geneva. - Yemen's Huthi rebels said on September 5, 2018 they were stranded in the capital Sanaa on the eve of United Nations-sponsored peace talks in Geneva with their government rivals. The Huthis said the UN had been unable to "secure authorisation" from a Saudi-led coalition backing the government for a plane to transport the rebel delegation and wounded insurgents out of the country, according to the Huthis' Al-Masirah TV. While the Huthis control Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, the coalition controls the country's airspace. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
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A Houthi delegation is yet to arrive in Geneva, casting doubt on whether United Nations-led peace talks on Yemen will take place.

The talks, aimed at ending a three-year war in which over 10,000 Yemenis have been killed, were scheduled to begin Thursday.

The start has been postponed to Friday after the Houthi delegation said Wednesday that it did not have the necessary permissions to leave Sanaa.

“The UN Envoy is working on getting the Houthis to Geneva and efforts are being make to ensure the Houthis presence,” said a spokeswoman for Martin Griffiths, the UN envoy to Yemen.

Mr Griffiths was scheduled to hold an informal meeting with representatives from the internationally recognised government of Yemen on Thursday, the spokeswoman said, but further consultations could not begin without the arrival of the Houthi delegation.

The talks aim to build confidence between the government and the rebel Houthis as a preliminary step towards more comprehensive peace negotiations.

A political solution is the only way forward, the spokeswoman said.


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Sources in Sanaa told The National on Wednesday that the Houthis had made last-minute demands, including a change of aircraft and a request to allow non-delegation members to travel without inspection.

On Thursday, a rebel spokesman told AFP they would not join talks unless the UN meets conditions that include the transportation of wounded fighters to Oman for treatment and a guarantee its delegation members would be allowed to return to rebel-held areas of Sanaa.

Mohammed Askar, Yemen's minister of human rights, told reporters in Abu Dhabi the Houthis had shown a lack of goodwill and accused them of deception.

Yemen’s Minister of Information, Mohammad El Eryani, claimed that Iran was sabotaging efforts to end the crisis.

“It is clear that Iran and Hezbollah are working to disable the solution for Yemen’s political crisis. The militia leaders will bear responsibility for the consequences of the results,” Mr Al Eryani said on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council on Wednesday night expressed support for Mr Griffiths’ efforts to find a political settlement and repeated calls for the implementation of UN Resolution 2216.

The 2015 resolution, which passed by 14 votes with Russia abstaining, demands that Houthis relinquish control of the capital Sanaa and other areas, and refrain from provocations or threats to neighbouring states.