UN's Yemen envoy confirms rebel failure to attend talks

Martin Griffiths angers government delegation by refusing to blame Houthis for no-show inGeneva

UN envoy Martin Griffiths attends a news conference on Yemen talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland September 8, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse
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The UN Special Envoy for Yemen conceded on Saturday that a Houthi rebel delegation would not be arriving in Geneva for talks, but refused to blame the insurgents for undermining the first attempt in two years to negotiate an end to the war.

"The important aspect of the last three days is that we have started consultations," Martin Griffiths said at a press conference called two days after indirect talks were to have started. "The road back to peace has started, not in the way that we want it, but it has begun."

He said that although the Houthi delegation failed to arrive in Geneva, "I don't take this as a fundamental blockage in the process".

"We’ve had three days of fruitful discussions, I appreciate the commitment and engagement of the Yemeni government delegation in the issues that we have discussed."

Yemen Foreign Minister Khaled Al Yamani said Mr Griffiths was making excuses for the rebels, who set conditions for their participation days before the UN-mediated talks were to have begun on Thursday.

Mr Al Yamani said that the international community should have been more serious in their efforts to get the Houthis to go to Geneva.

The rebels' failure to travel to Geneva showed their "irresponsibility", The foreign minister said.

"I believe that the words of the special envoy … were unfortunately appeasing the coup plotters and giving them excuse," said Mr Al Yamani, who led the government delegation that arrived in Geneva on Wednesday.

The rebels initially said they had not received permission to fly out of the country from the government-allied Arab Coalition that controls Yemen's airspace. They then insisted that they be allowed to transport injured rebel fighters to Oman for treatment en route to Geneva, and a guarantee that their delegation  would be allowed to return to Yemen after the talks.

Mr Griffiths said he would travel to Yemen in coming days to try to agree on a new date for talks.


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