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Yemeni Rebels Back out of Peace Talks at Last Moment

Yemeni Rebels Back out of Peace Talks at Last Moment

Monday, 18 April 2016 09:32 AM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen's Shiite rebels backed out of U.N.-brokered peace talks just hours before the negotiations were to start Monday in Kuwait, demanding an immediate halt to airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that has waged a year-long war against them, officials said.

It was not immediately clear if the negotiations were completely scuttled. According to two media officials linked to the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, rebel representatives have delayed their trip to Kuwait.

The rebel delegation would not go unless there is a "full halt to the airstrikes" by the Saudi-led coalition, the two officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

A statement issued Monday afternoon on behalf of the U.N. envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, described the Kuwait talks as "delayed" and gave no details on when they might resume.

"We are working to overcome the latest challenges and ask the delegations to show good faith, participate in the talks in order to reach a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Yemen," the envoy said. "The next few hours are crucial. We call on the parties to take their responsibilities seriously and agree on comprehensive solutions."

Officials from the Saudi-led coalition or the Yemeni government could not be immediately reached for comment.

The Kuwait talks are aimed at finding ways to resolve the year-long conflict between Yemen's internationally-recognized government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthis and their allies.

According to Abdel-Rahman al-Ahnoumi, a Houthi media official, the Houthis are not going to Kuwait unless there is a "full suspension" of airstrikes in accordance to the cease-fire deal signed earlier this month.

The official accused the U.N. envoy of trying to "jump over our" the rebels' demands and head directly to the talks.

"This just reflects that they are not serious about the whole deal," the media official said. "Talks amid the continued airstrikes will be useless."

Cheikh Ahmed has told the U.N. Security Council that Yemen's warring parties have shown commitment to peace by agreeing on an open-ended cessation of hostilities that began at midnight April 10 and their commitment to attend the talks starting Monday in Kuwait.

At the peace talks, the U.N. envoy said he would encourage both sides to negotiate a way forward on issues such as creating interim security arrangements, withdrawing militias and armed groups, handing over heavy weapons to the government, resuming an inclusive political dialogue and releasing of political prisoners and detainees.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014 and expelled the government led by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who flew to Saudi Arabia. The Yemeni government had since enlisted the help of the Western-backed coalition and retaken most of the southern region.

A U.N.-brokered cease-fire announced earlier this month has sought to facilitate the negotiations in Kuwait, though it has repeatedly been breached by both sides, which in turn traded accusations for the violations. Along with Sanaa, cities of Taiz, Marib and Jouf have seen most of the cease-fire violations.

At the talks, the Houthis were widely expected to comply with a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding their militia withdraw from Yemeni cities, the handover of the rebels' heavy weapons to government forces and the release of detainees. Representatives from both sides were also to be deployed along the front lines to monitor for cease-fire violations.

Yemen's war has killed thousands and displaced 2.4 million people while Houthis still retain control in much of the country's northern regions. The conflict has also fueled secessionist aspirations among the Southerners' for independence, which they had before Yemen was unified in 1990.

Also Monday, tens of thousands of Yemenis rallied in the port city of Aden, demanding the secession of the south from the rest of the country and the return of the one-time independent state of South Yemen.

Associated Press writer Maggie Michael in Cairo and Adam Schreck in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


   
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Yemen's Shiite rebels backed out of U.N.-brokered peace talks just hours before the negotiations were to start Monday in Kuwait, demanding an immediate halt to airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that has waged a year-long war against them, officials said.It was not...
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Monday, 18 April 2016 09:32 AM
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