Cairo: Yemen’s warring sides are due to gather in Switzerland on Thursday for a new round of UN-sponsored talks aimed at ending nearly four years of devastating strife in the country.
The internationally recognised government and Iran-allied Al Houthi militants confirmed their participation in the indirect talks in Geneva.
The talks are expected to focus on humanitarian issues, including the release of prisoners held by both sides and the unrestricted aid deliveries.
The government said it would participate in the talks in good faith with a team led by Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani.
Yemeni Vice-President Mohsen Al Ahmar had discussed with Al Yamani preparations for the Geneva consultations, Yemen’s state news agency Saba reported.
“The government enters this round with sincere intentions that give the top priority to the Yemeni people’s interests and the supreme national interests,” Al Ahmar said.
In September 2014, Al Houthis overran the Yemeni capital Sana’a in a coup against the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi. The extremists have since seized chunks of the Yemeni territory and devastated the country’s economy.
“I hope that the coup plotters will prioritise the country’s interests and the status of the Yemeni citizen, who is suffering terribly,” Al Ahmar added.
Yemenis this week took to the streets in several areas, protesting life hardships and the plummet of the local currency.
In March 2015, an Arab Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen at a request from the government against Al Houthis after the militants advanced on the southern city of Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of Sana’a.
Geneva’s talks, the fourth since Yemen’s war started, cap a flurry of meetings that UN envoy Martin Griffiths recently held with Yemen’s warring sides in an attempt to restart the country’s long-stalled peace process.
Hadi instructed the government’s negotiators to seek the release of the body of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh being kept by Al Houthis more than eight months after they killed him for having broken an alliance with them, Information Minister Muammar Al Iryani has disclosed.
The Yemeni president also called for the release of politicians, activists and media people in Al Houthis’ captivity, Al Iryani added in a tweet.
The Geneva talks are aimed at building confidence between the warring sides. However, observers do not expect a breakthrough due to intransigence shown by Al Houthis in previous rounds held in Switzerland and Kuwait.