Yemeni rebels set up ruling council; peace talks in doubt

Sunday 07/08/2016
UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (L) and UN spokesman Charbel Raji (R)

KUWAIT CITY - Rebel Houthis and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president announced the formation of a coun­cil to rule the country, a move UN officials said could ir­reparably damage talks to end the 15-month war.

Houthi political arm leader Salah al-Sammad and Sadek Abu Ras, an official in the party of former presi­dent Ali Abdullah Saleh, are in­cluded in the ten-member council, the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency reported August 6th.

The announcement came the same day UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed suspended peace talks in Kuwait. He said negotiations would resume but did not specify when or where.

Delegates of the internationally recognized government of Presi­dent Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi had left Kuwait City several days earlier after agreeing to a UN proposal that called on the rebels to stop fighting and accept other aspects of UN Se­curity Council Resolution 2216.

That resolution, which also calls for rebels to leave Sana’a and hand over heavy weapons, was adopted in April 2015 but has not affected the situation in Yemen.

Saleh’s supporters on July 28th said they were developing a ruling council to include equal numbers of rebels and forces aligned with Saleh. Ould Cheikh Ahmed at the time said such a move would be a “grave breach” of Resolution 2216.

Muaeen Abdulmalak, a mem­ber of the government delegation, said, if the delegation represent­ing the Houthi General People’s Congress refused to sign the agree­ment, “then the talks will be fu­tile”.

US Secretary of State John Ker­ry spoke by telephone with Ould Cheikh Ahmed, emphasising Wash­ington’s continued support for the peace talks, saying they are “the best opportunity to bring an end to the conflict”, US State Department spokesman John Kirby said.

Kerry and Ould Cheikh Ahmed welcomed the Hadi government’s acceptance of the UN proposal, Kir­by said, but noted the need for the Houthi General People’s Congress to engage with the United Nations and the international community to reach an agreement to end the war.

In a related development, a 105- page Security Council report high­lighted the deteriorating security situation in Yemen.

According to the report, the Houthi militia used civilians as hu­man shields. The report also said the Saudi-led military coalition bombed a civilian house in al-Ma­hala village in May and that it was investigating three similar cases.

Investigators from Gulf Coop­eration Council countries and Yemen acknowledged issues in two of eight cases the United Na­tions pointed out. The team looked into incidents in residential areas, hospitals, markets, a wedding and World Food Programme aid trucks, Reuters reported.

“We found shortcomings in two cases while the rest were in line with international humanitarian law,” the team’s Bahraini spokes­man, Mansur al-Mansur, said at a briefing in Riyadh.

The war in Yemen began after the Shia Houthis and their allies over­ran Sana’a in September 2014, seiz­ing most of the country and leading Hadi to flee 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. Ac­cording to UN estimates, more than 6,400 people have been killed since the start of the conflict, with 2.8 million people displaced as a consequence.