Saudi planes strike Yemen’s capital ahead of talks
SANAA – Warplanes from a Saudi-led coalition bombarded Yemen’s capital Sanaa overnight, a Reuters witness said, as the country’s warring factions prepared for talks due to start in Geneva on Monday.
Air strikes caused large explosions before dawn and hit locations south and west of the city as part of the coalition’s nearly 12-week campaign to target the Houthi militia and army forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The talks hosted by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon are aimed at finding a political solution to the fighting that has caused thousands of deaths in Yemen, but it was not clear if the opposing factions would meet each other.
Delegates will instead meet initially in separate rooms for talks with UN officials, who will try to bring them closer together with the ultimate aim of getting them around the same table.
There is little sign so far that either the Iran-allied Houthis and Saleh, or the Riyadh-based President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are ready to compromise after fighting that has resulted in stalemate since Saudi strikes began on March 26.
While Western countries largely backed Riyadh’s air campaign as a way of pushing the Houthis to the negotiating table, they have more recently started to press the kingdom to commence another humanitarian pause to allow aid in, and to negotiate.
An existing humanitarian crisis in Yemen was worsened by an air and sea blockade imposed to stop arms supplies to the Houthis and Saleh, but which also cut off access to food, medicine and fuel for many of the country’s citizens.
In recent weeks an “alarming” number of dengue fever and measles cases have also been reported in Yemen, contributing to a public health crisis, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a note late on Sunday. –Reuters