Political Analysis

UN Says Yemen Peace Talks On Schedule

The UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending the conflict in Yemen by bringing representatives of rival factions to Geneva are expected to begin on Monday, the world body says.

Announcing the start of “preliminary inclusive consultations” in the Swiss city on Monday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN’s peace envoy for Yemen, said in a statement the talks would bring together representatives of the exiled government, the Houthis, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General Peoples’ Congress and other opposition groups.

“The United Nations takes this opportunity to appeal to Yemen’s political actors to participate in these consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions, and in a climate of trust and mutual respect,” the statement said.

The internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said its delegation flew to Geneva on Saturday, but representatives of Houthis and Saleh refused to board a UN plane from Sanaa to Geneva.

A Houthi official said the group’s refusal was grounded in the fact the plane was due to stop off in Saudi Arabia, which is leading the Arab coalition’s air campaign against them.

Ahmad Fawzi, UN spokesperson, said that representatives of the two sides were expected to be in Geneva later on Sunday.

The delegations would “start with what we call proximity talks in two separate rooms with the hope they can be brought together”, Fawzi said, adding that there would be “extremely intensive consultations day and night”.

In Geneva on Sunday for preliminary meetings, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to take part in the opening session of the talks on Monday before returning to New York.

“We still hope that the parties will observe a humanitarian pause,” Fawzi said.

The UN Security Council and Ban have both called for a renewed humanitarian halt in the fighting following May’s truce.

The talks are aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Houthis and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The Security Council this week heard a report from Stephen O’Brien, the new UN aid chief, who described Yemen’s humanitarian crisis as “catastrophic”, with 20 million civilians – 80 percent of the population – in need of aid.