Gloves are off as Yemen's warring factions begin talks

Gloves are off as Yemen's warring factions begin talks
After a four day delay, the Yemeni government has started negotiations in Kuwait with Houthi rebels, in a make-or-break moment for peace in the war-torn state.
2 min read
22 April, 2016
The peace talks are Yemen's latest efforts to resolve the conflict [Getty]
Yemen's long-awaited UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait continued for a second day with a closed meeting between rival parties.

It is hoped the talks will end war in the country, and follows a scare on Thursday when government officials threatened to end negotiations following a four day wait for the Houthi delegation to arrive in the Gulf kingdom.

Hours later and a plane loaded with Houthi officials landed on the tarmac of Kuwait airport and started talks hours later.

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah opened the meeting and said the talks represent "a historic opportunity" to end the bloodshed in Yemen.

"War will only lead to more devastation, losses and displacement of people," he said.

"Today, you have one of two options, a secure nation that guarantees an honourable life or the ruins of a nation," UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh said.

He called on rival politicians to "compromise" in order to end the war, and said Yemen is "closer to peace than any time before".

The opening session was preceded by a closed meeting between both parties who discussed the need to implement the ceasefire among other topics, Mohammed Basha, former spokesman for the Yemen Embassy in Washington, said on his Twitter account.

But members of the Houthi delegation - who were also joined by officials from the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh's group who are allied to the Zaydi-Shia militia - said they didn't come to Kuwait "to surrender their arms to their adversaries".

The Houthi delegation also criticised Ould Cheikh for what they perceived as a pro-government "partisan" approach to the negotiations.

The government delegation responded and complained about the "frustrations" of waiting four days for the arrival of the other camp.

Houthi officials only agreed to fly out to Kuwait after receiving assurances that pro-government forces will abide by the terms of the ceasefire in Yemen.

It is hoped that the discussions will end the conflict that has left more than 6,400 people dead since the Saudi-led coalition began its war on Houthi rebels 13 months ago.

The Gulf force joined the war in March last year, to back Yemen's government after it was pushed out of the capital - and into exile - following a Houthi take-over of Sanaa.

UN talks in June and December failed to end the war, and many are sceptical about the chances of the Kuwait talks being successful.