Yemen government says no peace talks with Houthis yet
RIYADH/CAIRO – Yemen’s exiled government will not agree to peace talks until Houthi rebels implement a U.N. Security Council resolution requiring them to quit cities and hand over captured weapons, its vice president said on Tuesday.
U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the Houthis had given him “guarantees” they would attend talks in Geneva at the end of May where he hopes the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, now based in Saudi Arabia, and the rebels can negotiate a way to end months of fighting.
Hadi’s vice president, Khaled Bahah, said: “I think we are going, at the end, to sit with the Houthis, but we are not going to sit with the Houthis without (their) implementation of (U.N. Security Council resolution) 2216.”
“It has to be implemented as a good sign first,” Bahah told reporters on the sidelines of talks in Riyadh.
A statement issued after three days of the talks between Yemeni political parties made no mention of the proposed peace talks, but instead called for military aid for groups fighting the Houthis and for international intervention.
A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 26 to dislodge the rebels from areas they captured over the past year, including the capital Sanaa.
Saudi-led air raids hit military bases aligned with the Houthis in Sanaa overnight, residents said, the first to hit the capital since a five-day ceasefire ended late on Sunday.
Residents also reported air strikes on Saleh’s residence outside Sanaa and in the central province of Ibb. Most of Yemen’s army remains loyal to Saleh, the former autocrat forced to step down by protests in 2011.
Major General Mohammed Ali al-Maqdeshi, the newly-appointed army chief of staff, paid a surprise visit across the Saudi border into Yemen on Tuesday to help organize loyalist units.
“General Maqdeshi will embark on setting up the nucleus of the new Yemeni army staring with the military units loyal to the legitimate government,” a military source told Reuters.
There was no immediate word on casualties in the latest attacks, which followed soon after strikes in northern Saada province and in the southern city of Aden on Monday..
Aid agencies say the five-day truce did not provide sufficient opportunity to deliver food and medicine.
The U.N.’s World Food Programme said it had only delivered half its proposed and demanded “a series of predictable breaks in the conflict to deliver desperately needed aid.” – Reuters