Yemen rebels refuse to join Geneva talks 'until conditions met'

Yemen rebels refuse to join Geneva talks 'until conditions met'
Houthi rebels in Yemen said the UN had not met three conditions that had been previously agreed.

3 min read
06 September, 2018
The rebels said they were not given security clearance to depart the capital [Getty]

Yemen's Houthi rebels said they will not join peace talks in Geneva until their conditions are met, accusing the United Nations of failing to keep its promises. 

Hameed Assem, a member of the rebel delegation scheduled to attend the talks on Thursday, said the UN had not met three conditions that had been previously agreed. 

The conditions include the transport of wounded rebels to Oman, the repatriation of rebels who have already received treatment there and a guarantee that the Houthi delegation would be allowed to return to the rebel-held capital Sanaa after the talks.

Planned talks in Geneva this week between Yemen's warring partiesoffer a "flickering signal of hope" after years of conflict, the UN mediator said Wednesday, despite signs of delay and low expectations. 

The talks will be the first public meetings between the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Yemen's powerful Houthi rebels since 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait failed to broker a power-sharing deal.

"The people of Yemen... are desperately in need of a signal of hope," UN envoy Martin Griffiths told reporters in Geneva.

Read also: War crimes in Yemen

"We would like to think that the work we will do together in these next days will begin to send a flickering signal of hope to them." 

But both the government and the rebels have said they expect no breakthrough at the "consultations", which had been scheduled to open Thursday but appear likely to be delayed.

Stranded in Sanaa

But while representatives of the Yemeni government arrived in Geneva Wednesday, the rebels remained stranded in Sanaa, amid claims the Saudi-led coalition backing Hadi was preventing them from leaving for the talks.

The Houthis said the UN had been unable to "secure authorisation" from a Saudi-led coalition backing the government for a plane to transport the rebel delegation, along with wounded insurgents, out of the country, according to the Houthis' Al-Masirah TV

While the Houthis control Sanaa and much of northern Yemen, the coalition controls the country's airspace.

When asked about the Houthi charges, Griffiths said: "We are working on that."

The UN meanwhile announced that there would be no meetings at its European headquarters in Geneva on Thursday as previously planned.

But Griffiths said his "informal consultations" with the government side would begin immediately.

"I am looking forward to meeting their leader right after this, Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani," he said at a press conference.

That meeting is expected to take place in a Geneva hotel, as are any other meetings that might happen on Thursday, while more formal consultations could kick off at the UN on Friday.

"We are not going to waste time," Griffiths said.

Griffiths is the UN's third Yemen envoy since 2014, when the Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and drove Hadi's government into exile.

The following year, Saudi Arabia and its allies formed a powerful regional military coalition to back Hadi's government in its fight against the Houthis.

The conflict has since left more than 10,000 people dead and pushed the Arab world's most impoverished country to the brink of famine.