Huthi rebels lose last opportunity for peace in Yemen
SANAA – Yemen's exiled government said it would not attend planned UN-brokered peace talks unless Shiite rebels first agree to withdraw from territory they have captured in accordance with a UN resolution.
A short statement published by the exiled president's office overnight said the government had decided "not to take part in any meeting until the militia recognises Resolution 2216 and agrees to implement it without conditions".
The statement appeared to go back on a previous statement last week in which the exiled government said it would attend the planned talks in neutral Oman.
The UN's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had announced that both the government and the rebels had agreed to take part.
The talks were aimed "at creating a framework for an agreement" on a UN mechanism that would see the Huthis withdraw from territories that they have conquered, the envoy said.
The United Nations has called repeatedly for a ceasefire in Yemen, but talks in Geneva in June collapsed without the warring parties even sitting down in the same room.
Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by conflict since March, when an Arab coalition launched air strikes against the Iran-backed Huthis.
Oman is the only Gulf Arab state that has not joined the coalition.
Yemen's conflict pits an array of forces against the Huthi rebels, who are allied with security forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The conflict has killed more than 4,000 people, leaving the Arab world's poorest country in the grip of a humanitarian crisis and on the brink of famine.
Several previous attempts to get the parties to end the conflict have failed, and it has proven nearly impossible to arrange a humanitarian pause to deliver desperately needed aid.
Meanwhile, forces loyal to Yemen's exiled president, backed by coalition, launched a major ground offensive against Iran-backed rebels east of the capital Sanaa on Sunday, a military official said.
"This is the largest and fiercest offensive since operations began in Marib province," the official said.
Fighters loyal to President Hadi have attacked the rebels in two areas -- Jufeinah and Faw -- that lie on the route leading to rebel-held Sanaa, he said.
Most of the oil-rich province of Marib is controlled by fighters and armed tribes allied with Hadi, but the Shiite Huthi rebels and renegade troops loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh hold parts of the province.
The coalition has over the past weeks sent military reinforcements to Marib in preparation for an offensive to retake Sanaa, which was overrun last year by the rebels.
In July, loyalists troops freshly trained and equipped by the coalition pushed the rebels out of the port city of Aden and four other southern provinces.