Peace talks fail, situation escalates in Yemen

Friday 26/06/2015
Clashes at news conference by Yemeni rebels

LONDON - Yemen’s future appears to be up in the air as talks between the exiled gov­ernment and Houthi rebels failed to yield re­sults, with both parties accusing the other of sabotaging UN-spon­sored peace talks.

Tensions between negotiators reached a dramatic zenith when fights broke out at a news confer­ence on the third day of the long-awaited negotiations. A Houthi leader was attacked by a shoe-wielding supporter of exiled Yem­eni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which led to other shoes being thrown and an all-out fight among various participants.

In another twist, a member of the Hadi delegation, Abdel-Aziz Jubari, received news of the loss of his home in Yemen, after Houthi rebels loaded his property in Dhamar with explosives and destroyed it.

Speaking at a news conference after receiving news of the destruc­tion of his home, Jubari said: “It is regrettable that people’s man­ners and behaviours can reach this point. Of course my house is not the only house in Yemen. A lot of peo­ple’s homes and properties have been targeted in an unbelievable way.”

“I won’t beat around the bush. There was no kind of agreement reached,” UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said after the talks failed to pro­duce results. He added that great challenges remain unsolved due to the war and that “everybody who has gone through war knows that people are entrenched in their posi­tions, and it is difficult to get a rap­prochement”.

Houthi rebel delegation leader Hamza al-Houthi expressed disap­pointment saying: “We did every­thing to make the talks a success, but there were too many obstacles, especially the demand for a with­drawal.”

Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Abdul Latif Al Zayani expressed regret on the failure of the Geneva talks and called on the Houthis and for­mer Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh to give priority to the “the ul­timate interest of Yemen”. He also emphasised the GCC’s support for Hadi and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which called for an end of the fight­ing in Yemen.

Following the end of talks, Arab coalition forces launched more than 20 air strikes on Houthi-con­trolled targets, while Aden resi­dents reported raids on the Houthi-controlled international airport as another bombing damaged the Ottoman-era Seera castle.

Moreover, along Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia, residents in Haj­jah province reported five air sor­ties on buildings housing Houthi forces and their army allies, who have repeatedly clashed with Saudi forces in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the United Nations warned of a “looming catastrophe” in Yemen, stressing the need for $1.6 billion in aid relief. “Over 21 million people or 80% of the popu­lation are now estimated to be in need of some form of humanitarian aid and or protection,” UN spokes­man Jens Laerke said.

According to a statement by UN Under-Secretary-General for Hu­manitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, the revised 2015 Humanitarian Response Plan aims to provide es­sential protection and lifesaving assistance including food, water and shelter to the most vulnerable families.

Relief agencies are scaling up op­erations to ensure the plan can be implemented, increasing the num­ber of staff and stockpiling supplies. At the launch of the revised plan, O’Brien welcomed an announce­ment of $244.7 million from Saudi Arabia to support humanitarian re­sponse in Yemen and measures of support from other countries.

“While this plan allows us to re­lieve the dire human suffering in Yemen, it alone is not enough to end the living nightmare faced by so many families. Only a political solution to the Yemen crisis can end the unacceptable and intoler­able level of suffering,” stressed the global aid chief.

More than 2,600 people have been killed in Yemen since March, according to UN figures. The situa­tion is particularly serious in Aden, where residents have complained of food and water shortages and health officials warn of the spread of disease.

A Saudi-led coalition launched an air campaign against the Iran-backed Houthis in late March to restore Hadi to power.

Hadi, was pushed aside last year when Houthis advancing from their northern strongholds overran the government in Sana’a and went on to capture lands to the south despite the coalition air strikes. Conflict in Yemen pits the Houthis and their allies against an array of forces, including southern separa­tists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and forces loyal to Hadi.