Yemen government negotiators said on Saturday that they would not join peace talks or accept initiatives that do not include “clear assurances” that the recently formed Political Council would be disbanded.
Iran-backed Al Houthis and ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh moved to unilaterally form the council in a move condemned by Yemen’s internationally-recognised government led by President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
Speaking to Gulf News, a member of the government’s delegation to the failed peace talks in Kuwait, said Hadi’s government will not back down on its request to disband the council ahead of any talks aimed at forming a unity government.
“President Hadi and his government have made their position clear in their previous meetings with UN envoy to Yemen Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad. They have asked for guarantees that the putschists would put into place all agreements and would revoke their unilateral steps,” said the official, who was not authorised to speak to the media.
The comments come after recent media reports claimed that a senior US official has floated a new proposal to an Al Houthi delegation in Oman for a ceasefire ahead of a new round of peace talks.
The media reports did not elaborate on the proposal or the agenda of the talks.
The official speculated that the talks would be based on a previous draft agreement proposed by Ould Shaikh Ahmad during the final days of peace talks in Kuwait.
He said Al Houthis had recently shown “flexibility” towards the proposal that they previously rejected, but they insist on a “comprehensive” political solution.
The rebels are also insisting on Hadi’s resignation, the official said.
Ould Shaikh Ahmad’s plan calls for Al Houthis to withdraw from major cities and hand over their arms to a “neutral” military committee, in the first phase.
The second phase would convene warring parties to discuss the formation of a unity administration.
Despite the fact that the proposal does not call for Al Houthis to withdraw from all occupied Yemeni territories and also does not call for the disarmament of the elite forces loyal to Saleh, the government delegation accepted the proposal, in an act of good faith.
Meanwhile on the ground, heavy clashes between Al Houthi rebels and government forces killed dozens in the southern city of Taiz, over the past few days, a local army commander told Gulf News.
On Friday night, Al Houthis attacked army positions on the western side of the densely-populated city, in an attempt to reimpose their siege.
The rebels retreated after failing to make any gains.
Deadly clashes were also reported on Saturday in the Karash region of the Lahej province where government forces backed by intensive air support from the Saudi-led Arab coalition made limited territorial gains.