By Byron Marshall
Yemen’s Houthi Rebels and its armed allies seized a military base north of the capital Sanaa on Sunday, dealing a setback to a shaky ceasefire and peace talks in Kuwait aimed at ending a year-long war.
Yemen’s warring parties began face-to-face peace talks on Saturday on “key issues” in a bid to end the conflict in the impoverished Arab country, the United Nations said. Last week, the government delegation reiterated demands for the immediate implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis to withdraw from cities occupied earlier and lay down their arms. Abdel-Malek Al Mekhlafi, Yemen’s foreign minister and the government’s top delegate to U.N.-backed negotiations with the Houthis in Kuwait, said the rebels had “torpedoed” the talks. The Houthis had no reason to attack the camp, and this, along with ceasefire violations in several provinces, had convinced the government negotiators that it would not be possible to continue talks while the war was continuing, Mr Hizam told The National. “We received 40 prisoners, 20 of those were captured inside Yemen”, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said in a statement. “Those who don’t want peace … are the ones who create false justifications and reasons to obstruct”, the talks, Abdulsalam wrote on Twitter. The UN envoy said on Saturday that “there are positive signs of political understanding but we haven’t overcome all obstacles yet”.
Speaking to the Tasnim News Agency, Seyyed Sadiq al-Sharafi pointed to the peace talks underway in Kuwait, saying that over the past days, the Saudi negotiating team has refused to talk about the ceasefire and how to sustain it in Yemen as well as a halt to the Saudi-led coalition’s air strikes and ground advances by their mercenaries. Most of the meetings in talks which began April 21 have so far been confined to encounters between rival delegations Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Mikhlafi said his delegation will take “a suitable position” towards the rebels’ “crime” against Al-Amaliqa base without elaborating. Government loyalists said they have recorded “3,694 ceasefire violations by the Huthis and their allies” – troops fighting in support of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. According to United Nations figures, the ongoing conflict has led to the death of some 6,400 Yemenis to date and forced some 2.5 million to flee their homes.