Yemen peace talks in limbo

Sunday 17/07/2016
Hadi described talks in Kuwait as \'mirage\'

SANA'A - UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has been shuttling around the region to convince the internationally rec­ognised Yemeni government to re­turn to peace talks in Kuwait.
The negotiations began April 21st but have yielded few results, except for a series of prisoner exchanges. The talks are in limbo with the Yem­eni government refusing to partici­pate, although the United Nations has yet to describe the situation as a complete breakdown.
After a July 11th meeting in Ri­yadh with Ould Cheikh Ahmed, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Man­sour Hadi described the talks in Ku­wait as a “mirage” and said, since the onset of talks, the Yemeni gov­ernment had met all its obligations.
“But we’ve received nothing in return from the coup militia,” Hadi said, referring to the Iran-allied Houthi militia, which took over Sana’a in late 2014.
The latest sticking point is the UN proposal of a national unity govern­ment that would include the Houthi rebels. That contradicts the initial agreement for the talks in Kuwait, which required the militia to sur­render its arms and withdraw from areas it had occupied, as outlined in UN Resolution 2216.
“We will not return to the talks in Kuwait if the United Nations tries to impose the latest proposal by me­diator Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed,” Hadi said while visiting government troops in Yemen’s Marib province ahead of his meeting in Riyadh.
According to government sources who spoke on the condition of ano­nymity, during his meeting with the UN envoy, Hadi reaffirmed his rejec­tion of the proposed unity govern­ment that would include the rebels.
Government sources ruled out a compromise on the issue and Ha­di’s rhetoric in Marib indicates a re­turn to full military engagement to liberate Sana’a.
The likelihood of talks resum­ing soon appears slim, according to Yemeni political analyst Mo­hamed as-Salihi, especially in light of the Yemeni government’s claim that the United Nations has failed to support the original talk frame­work.
Salihi said rumours of the talks moving to Dhahran in Saudi Arabia gained traction recently, particular­ly after repeated visits by the head of the Houthi delegation to Riyadh for meetings with officials. Accord­ing to Salihi, the angry rhetoric from former president’s Ali Abdul­lah Saleh’s General People’s Con­gress (GPC) party has exacerbated problems.
“If true the new events might herald the existence of separate bilateral talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis with the exclusion of the ex-president’s party,” he added.
Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said: “The special envoy re­mains committed and wants all the parties to remain committed to the political process and we very much hope to see all the parties back in Kuwait… when the talks resume.”
The United Arab Emirates, a main player in the Saudi-led coalition at war with the Houthis, reaffirmed its commitment to the internationally recognised Yemeni government and the fight against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan on July 11th said his country was “very much committed” to pursuing al-Qaeda in Yemen but did not elaborate on whether the UAE intended on scaling up its presence in the war against the Houthis.
The war in Yemen began after the Shia Houthis and their allies over­ran Sana’a in September 2014 and seized most of the country. Hadi fled to Saudi Arabia.
An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the Unit­ed States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight.