US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking on Wednesday called on the Iran-backed Houthi rebels to show more flexibility in the “maximalist and impossible” demands they have made in a UN-proposed expanded truce deal.
An initial ceasefire first agreed to in April had brought the longest stretch of relative calm in the seven-year conflict between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, which is backed by a Saudi-led military coalition.
Mr Lenderking said the Houthis had made “maximalist and impossible” demands over a proposed mechanism to pay public sector wages, but that he was confident an agreement could be reached if the group showed flexibility.
A member of the Houthi negotiating committee had, in a Twitter post, criticised the proposed payment scheme for not including members of the police as well as security and military forces.
The demands created a “threshold that was simply too hard for the other side to contemplate and was entirely unreasonable”, Mr Lenderking told reporters.
UN envoy Hans Grundberg earlier told Reuters the two sides had failed to renew the truce because they were still arguing over proposals to pay civil service wages, increase fuel shipments, add flights and open roads.
Still, Mr Lenderking said an agreement could come if the Houthis were to pull away from these “very high demands” and return to the truce process and the UN proposal on the table.
“We encourage them very eagerly to do so,” Mr Lenderking said.
He added it appeared that the regime in Iran, under pressure from street protests over the killing of a young woman in police custody, is not backing a political solution to the conflict.
“We need to see Iranian action borne out on the ground that supports this kind of more positive approach. And frankly, we haven’t seen that,” he said.
“We must view Iran's involvement based on what we've seen so far, which has been over the course of the conflict quite negative.”
In a statement seen by The National, members of the UN Security Council, expressing their “deep disappointment” at the passing of the October 2 deadline, called on the Yemeni parties, in particular the Houthis, to “refrain from provocation, prioritise the Yemeni people and return to engaging constructively in negotiations”.
They reiterated the need to avoid the resumption of hostilities inside Yemen as well as attacks within the region and in the Red Sea.
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Reuters contributed to this report