Yemen Ambassador Says UN-led Geneva Talks to Start June 14

SANAA // Yemen’s ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday that UN-led talks on the crisis in his country will begin on June 14 in Geneva.

It comes as Saudi-led coalition warplanes intensified raids on the capital Sanaa, as Washington confirmed that a senior US diplomat had met representatives of Houthi rebels to try to revive peace talks.

Khaled Alyemany said the UN was expected to announce officially the date for the Geneva meeting shortly.

A previous attempt to hold the talks was postponed last month, days before the planned May 28 talks, after a request from Yemen’s government and other parties for more time to prepare.

The UN Security Council has appealed for a new humanitarian ceasefire and for talks to end the fighting, which has claimed the lives of at least 2,000 people since March.

Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, including the UAE, have been bombing the Iran-backed rebels since late March to try to restore Yemen’s exiled president, Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, to power.

Dozens of explosions rocked the capital on Wednesday as coalition jets pounded Sanaa.

The raids targeted several rebel arms depots, a pro-rebel military police camp and a renegade troop base, according to residents.

At least three people were killed and 11 wounded in the raids and subsequent explosions, a medical source said.

The coalition also struck positions in the northern provinces of Jawf, Saada and Hajja near the border with Saudi Arabia, as well as in the third city of Taez and the southern province of Daleh.

The Houthis have allied with renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled Yemen for three decades before stepping down in February 2012 after a year-long uprising.

Washington said on Tuesday that its senior diplomat for the Near East, Anne Patterson, had held talks with Houthi rebel representatives in neighbouring Oman to persuade them to participate in the proposed Geneva conference.

The Oman meeting aimed to “reinforce our view that there can only be a political solution to the conflict in Yemen and that all parties including the Houthi” should participate in “the UN-led political process”, said Marie Harf, the state department spokeswoman.

Also Tuesday, an aide to Mr Hadi said Yemen’s exiled president agreed to travel to Geneva for talks with the Houthis. The rebels’ deputy commander has also said that they were ready to go to Geneva.

Mohammed Al Houthi, who heads the Houthi rebels’ powerful Revolutionary Council, blamed Mr Hadi for derailing negotiations by demanding the rebels withdraw from territory they captured as a precondition for talks.

“They are putting preconditions to obstruct any talks that could lead the Yemeni people to a solution,” Mr Al Houthi said. “Dialogue is the principle to us. There are no objections to talks.”

A diplomat in Oman said the Houthis had told the US they wanted a halt to the bombing and uninterrupted access for deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The UN has called for the talks to be held without preconditions.

The Oman meetings followed a visit to Muscat last week by the foreign minister of Iran.

Tehran is a key backer of the Houthis but has denied shipping weapons to them.

Muscat has good ties with both Iran and Washington, and has often played the role of mediator.

It is also the only member of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council not to have joined the coalition against the Houthis.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse


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