Yemen government wants rebel pullback before joining UN talks

Friday 15/05/2015

‘We are not going unless there is something on the ground’

RIYADH - Yemen's government in exile wants rebels to pull back from seized territory before it will join United Nations talks in Geneva on May 28, the foreign minister said on Wednesday.

"We are not going unless there is something on the ground," Riyadh Yassin said by telephone.

He said the government had not been invited officially to the meeting, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called to "restore momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process" after weeks of war which have killed about 1,850 people.

But even if it is invited, Yassin said the government will not attend without some implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 as a sign of "goodwill".

The April resolution imposed an arms embargo on the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and demanded that they relinquish seized territory.

"We will not attend if there is no implementation, at least part of it. If there is no withdrawal from Aden at least, or Taez," Yassin said.

The announcement of the UN conference came as Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen intensified after a five-day humanitarian truce expired at the weekend.

Ban hopes the Geneva talks "will help Yemen re-launch the political process, reduce the levels of violence and alleviate the intolerable humanitarian situation," said a statement from his spokesman.

It remained unclear if the Shiite Huthi rebels planned to attend the meeting.

UN-brokered peace talks were suspended when the Huthis went on the offensive, capturing Sanaa in September and advancing on Aden, forcing the president to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia.

A new UN envoy, Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, was named after Gulf nations lost confidence in then-mediator Jamal Benomar.

The Saudi-led coalition launched an air war on Yemen on March 26 to restore the authority of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Some 1,850 people had been killed and 7,394 wounded in the violence in Yemen, while another 545,000 had been displaced, according to the United Nations.