United Nations-sponsored consultations on the Yemen crisis have started in Geneva, with the aim of ending the bloody conflict in the country.
Representatives from Yemen’s government, the Houthi rebels, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General Peoples’ Congress and other opposition groups were expected to attend the talks in Switzerland, which began on Monday morning.
It was not immediately clear, however, if all of the parties were in attendance when the talks started.
Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary-general, was in attendance at the opening session of the talks, posing for photographs with a number of representatives of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Announcing the start of “preliminary inclusive consultations” in the Swiss city, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN’s peace envoy for Yemen, issued a statement before the talks calling on “Yemen’s political actors to participate in these consultations in good faith and without preconditions, and in a climate of trust and mutual respect”.
However, despite UN spokesman Ahmed Fawzy’s direct appeal for all parties to “observe a humanitarian pause to create a climate conducive to moving forward in this consultation”, fresh air strikes were reported in Yemen.
Sources told Al Jazeera that the Saudi-led Arab coalition carried out air raids on weapons stores in the capital Sana’a on Sunday night.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra, reporting from Geneva, said the opposing sides were still a long way apart on how to bring peace to Yemen.
Our correspondent said the Houthi rebels wanted formal acknowledgement of a deal it signed with exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi when they took over the capital last September, whereas the exiled government wanted to scrap that deal and start again.
“This is an extremely delicate situation for the international community and the United Nations,” he said, adding that the two sides would initially start the talks in separate rooms.
The peace talks have sparked some hope among Yemeni civilians for an early resolution to the conflict.
“We hope that something positive will come out of these meetings between the various Yemeni parties because we want the war to be over,” Saber Nouman, a Yemeni national said.