Yemen’s Houthis agree to UN talks

United Nations envoy to Yemen also meets with the UAE's foreign minister.

SANAA/UNITED NATIONS // Yemen’s Houthis agreed on Thursday to join United Nations-backed peace talks in Geneva planned for June 14, a day after their opponents in the exiled government confirmed their attendance.

A Saudi Arabia-led coalition of states has been bombing Houthi forces for over two months in an attempt to restore president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, who has fled to Riyadh. Around 2,000 people have been killed and half a million displaced by the fighting.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has for weeks shuttled between the Houthi-controlled capital, the exiled government in Riyadh and other regional capitals to garner support for peace talks in Geneva. On Thursday, he met with the UAE’s foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Abu Dhabi.

“The GCC realises that a solution to the Yemeni crisis has to be political and based on a clear-cut reference representing the legitimacy, the GCC initiative, the UN security council’s relevant resolutions and the Riyadh declaration,” Sheikh Abdullah said.

He added that the GCC countries were exerting humanitarian efforts alongside the political process.

Daifallah Al Shami, a member of the Houthis’ politburo, said his movement would take part in the UN talks, and “supports without preconditions the efforts of the United Nations to organise Yemeni-Yemeni dialogue”.

Mr Hadi had previously insisted that the Houthis obey UN security council resolution 2216, passed in April, which required them to recognise his administration and quit Yemen’s main cities.

Yemeni politicians say representatives of former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, will also accept a UN invitation to the talks, but that southern rebel factions, who also control swathes of Yemen, are unlikely to be invited.

The Houthis, who seized the capital Sanaa last September and now control much of the country with the help of forces loyal to Mr Saleh, say they are part of a “revolution” against corruption.

Saudi Arabia and allied states fear that the Houthis, who hail from a Shiite sect, will spread the influence of the Gulf states’ Shiite rival Iran in the Arabian Peninsula.

The foreign minister of one of those allies, Qatar, said in Paris that the armed intervention had prevented a Houthi takeover.

“If there had not been (Operation) Decisive Storm, we would have seen the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s people all over Yemen,” Khaled Al Attiyah said. “I think Decisive Storm ... has restored legitimacy in Yemen.

Overnight, around 12 air raids hit weapons stores around the presidential palace in Sanaa, according to a witness, triggering secondary blasts that lit up the night sky.

Air strikes also hit a naval base and Yemen’s naval command in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, residents said.

In the southern city of Aden, a bastion of support for Hadi and scene of street clashes, air raids hit Houthi positions in the northern suburbs on Thursday.

Local fighters in the city and in a tangled battle line stretching through Yemen’s south oppose the Houthis, but many support eventual independence for South Yemen, which was forced to unify with the north, under Mr Saleh, in a 1994 civil war.

* Reuters, Wam

Published: June 4, 2015 04:00 AM

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