Yemen rebels refuse to board plane for Geneva peace talks

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Houthis objected to the idea of two separate delegations to the talks—one representing the embattled government, and one seen as representing a “coup.” 

SANAA — Airport officials in Yemen’s capital Sanaa say a plane meant to carry Houthi rebels and their allies to talks in Geneva has left without the delegates on board.

A Houthi representative, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, said Saturday that the Houthis objected to the idea of two separate delegations to the talks—one representing the embattled government, and one seen as representing a “coup.”

He says this arrangement created an environment aimed at pressuring the Houthis to withdraw from Sanaa, rather than continuing a broader multi-party discussion. The Houthis had initially welcomed the meetings.

UN sponsored talks on the Yemeni conflict were scheduled to start on Sunday. 

Saudi-led air strikes hit Yemen rebels 

Warplanes from the Saudi-led coalition struck rebel positions in Yemen Saturday, witnesses said, as warring parties from the impoverished nation prepared for UN-sponsored talks in Geneva.

Air raids targeted Houthi rebels in the central province of Dhamar, as well as air defence positions of allied troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, witnesses said.

Rebel positions in their northern Saada stronghold were also hit, they added.

A wave of intensive overnight air strikes targeted arms depots around the capital and residences of people close to Saleh, including his brother’s home, south of Sanaa, witnesses said.

Saudi Arabia launched the air war on March 26, as the rebels and their allies among forces loyal to Saleh advanced on President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s refuge in the southern city of Aden.

Hadi had fled the capital, which the rebels seized unopposed in September, and was rushed to safety in Saudi Arabia as the Houthis closed in on Aden.

Clashes continued Saturday in the port city of Aden, as well as in nearby Daleh, and in the provinces of Shabwa and Abyan, where southern fighters allied with Hadi have been fighting advancing rebels.

The exiled government said its delegation flew Saturday to Geneva for the UN talks due to open on Monday.

But representatives of the Houthis and Saleh’s General People’s Congress refused to board a UN plane from Sanaa to Geneva Saturday because it was scheduled to stop off in Jizan, in Saudi Arabia, a Houthi official told AFP.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Houthis and stepping up humanitarian aid deliveries.

A five-day truce last month allowed aid agencies to reach civilians caught in the fighting but UN efforts to prolong the ceasefire failed.

The World Health Organization said Friday that 2,584 people had been killed in fighting in Yemen as of June 7, with 11,065 wounded. 

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