Yemen calls for more international support against rebels

Foreign minister calls for pressure on militias to agree to peace, and assistance in stopping arms smuggling from Iran.
A fighter loyal to president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi runs behind a tank flying the Yemeni flag near the country’s third-largest city of Taez on September 7, 2016. Ahmad Al Basha / AFP
A fighter loyal to president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi runs behind a tank flying the Yemeni flag near the country’s third-largest city of Taez on September 7, 2016. Ahmad Al Basha / AFP

BERLIN // Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel Malek Al Mekhlafi on Wednesday urged the international community to step up its support in the fight against the armed Houthi movement, but repeated assurances that his government was ready to compromise with the rebels and share leadership with them.

“We are grateful for the international support for Yemen and the legitimate government, but we need more, of course,” said Mr Mekhlafi. “Above all, we need more pressure on the militias so that they take part in the peace process.” More international support was needed to help combat arms smuggling from Iran — which backs the Houthis — and elsewhere.

Talks sponsored by the United Nations to try to end 18 months of fighting collapsed in failure last month. The Shiite Houthis and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh resumed shelling into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Houthi rebels and Saleh supporters from taking control of the country.

Addressing the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, Mr Mekhlafi reiterated his government was ready to compromise and form a government with the Iranian-allied Houthi movement if they would accept a UN proposal, which includes giving up weapons and withdrawing from the capital.

After talks held in Saudi Arabia last month with Gulf Arab states and UN, American secretary of state John Kerry said agreement was reached on restarting peace discussion with a goal of forming a unity government.

Both the Houthis and the exiled government have welcomed the idea of a return to talks since then and the Houthi leader Abdel Malek Al Houthi last week told the faction’s quarterly magazine that his group was open to a peaceful solution of the conflict.

According to figures released last week by the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed in the civil war. About 14 million of Yemen’s 26 million population needed food aid and 7 million were suffering from food insecurity.

Mr Mekhlafi said a national commission was studying all the deaths to determine responsibility, and rejected a call to launch an independent commission until that work was completed.

He said the government was willing to take responsibility for any mistakes that caused civilian deaths and said most were due to Houthi bombing.

At least eight civilians were killed when a house north of Yemen’s capital was hit in an air raid on Thursday, rebel-controlled media in the war-torn country reported.

Al-Massirah television said five others were wounded in the city of Amran, which is held by Houthi rebels. The house was close to an army base, which was the real target of the strike.

The military coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which includes units from the UAE, intervened in Yemen after rebels forced the elected president Abdrabu Mansour Hadi into exile.

* Reuters

Published: September 8, 2016 04:00 AM

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