UN special envoy awaits Houthis at Yemen peace talks in Geneva


GENEVA: The United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has discussed issues including prisoners, humanitarian access and the reopening of Sanaa airport with Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, a UN spokeswoman said on Friday.

But Griffiths, who began consultations with the Yemen government delegation in Geneva on Thursday, was still awaiting representatives of the Iranian-allied Houthi movement from the capital Sanaa in order to hold peace talks, UN spokeswoman Alessandra Vellucci said.

“He is still working on getting the Ansarullah delegation to Geneva,” she said.

Meanwhile, she said, he had been discussing confidence-building measures, humanitarian access, Sanaa airport and economic issues with the representatives of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognized government.

The United Nations said on Thursday that Griffiths was not expected to hold any talks at its Geneva offices on Friday.

But on Friday he was seen holding talks at the hotel of the Yemeni government delegation.

Two sources in the government delegation told Reuters on Thursday they had given Griffiths until noon on Friday to persuade the Houthis to come to Geneva.

As the deadline passed, there was no announcement about whether the talks would be held or not, and a Western diplomat following the peace efforts said there was “no indication so far” that the Houthis were coming.

The Houthis appeared to be standing by a demand to use the plane meant to carry their delegation to Geneva to evacuate dozens of injured people to neighboring Oman.

“This condition … can only interpreted as aiming to obstruct the talks,” United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted on Friday.

The UAE is a main member of the Saudi-led military coalition that intervened in Yemen’s war against the Houthis in 2015 with the aim of restoring Hadi’s government. Subsequent peace talks flopped.

Since then, the humanitarian situation has worsened sharply, putting 8.4 million people on the brink of starvation and ruining the already weak economy.

The United Nations wants the government and the Houthi movement to work toward a deal to end the war, remove foreign forces from Yemen and establish a national unity government.

The Houthis’ al-Masirah TV reported on Wednesday that the coalition had prevented their delegation flying from Sanaa to Geneva. The Houthis have said the United Nations promised that wounded people could be transported on the flight.

Hamza al-Kamali, Yemeni deputy minister for youth, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday that the flight had been given clearance three days earlier.


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