Yemeni government in diplomatic offensive for peace

Cairo: Yemen’s internationally recognised government has stepped up its diplomatic efforts to shore up chances for success of UN peace talks due early next month amid mounting fears that Iran-allied Al Houthis are bent on derailing the latest bid to end the four-year-old conflict in the country.

After a flurry of recent meetings with Yemen’s warring sides, UN envoy Martin Griffiths has announced a new round of talks in Geneva on September 6 in an attempt to restart the long-stalled peace process.

The new talks come amid military escalation in Yemen where government forces, backed by an Arab coalition, have made territorial advances against Al Houthis in recent months.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani conveyed to a number of regional and Western ambassadors his government’s concerns about Al Houthis’ attempts to torpedo the Geneva talks after several militia leaders had downplayed the importance of the upcoming round, Saudi newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported on Wednesday.

Days ago, head of the militias’ ruling council Mahdi Al Mashat said that his group does not hold much hopes for the Geneva consultations and called for recruiting more fighters in Al Houthi militia, which staged a coup against the Yemeni government in late 2014.

Al Houthis have already rejected the UN envoy’s proposal to peacefully withdraw from the embattled western city of Hodeida and hand over its vital port in return for cessation of a government campaign for the Red Sea city.

In June, government loyalists, supported by the coalition, unleashed a major offensive to liberate Hodeida from Al Houthis, who have been in control of the city since October 2014.

The Geneva gathering was at the centre of talks this week between Minister Al Yamani and US ambassador to Yemen Matthew Tueller.

During the meeting, Al Yamani stressed the importance of continued backing for the UN envoy’s efforts and making use of the Geneva consultations in order to agree on confidence-building measures, including the exchange or prisoners being held by the warring sides and secured aid deliveries, Yemen’s state news agency Saba reported.

The US diplomat reassured the Yemeni official about Washington’s backing for efforts conducive for a political solution to Yemen’s conflict, Saba added.

Earlier in the week, Tueller met Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi in the Saudi capital Riyadh where they discussed prospects for success of the Geneva talks, Iran’s involvement in Yemen’s feud and its illegal supply of weapons to Al Houthis.

Previous UN talks on Yemen ended inconclusively due to intransigence of Al Houthis, seen acting at Iran’s behest.

In 2015, the Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened in Yemen against Al Houthis in response to a request from the government after the extremists advanced on the southern city of Aden, the temporary capital of the country after their takeover of the capital Sana’a.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led Arab Coalition Forces have targeted a meeting of Al Houthi commanders in Beit Al Faqih, Hodeidah, killing scores of coup perpetrators.

The strike, which followed the typical rules of combat, came after the coalition had received confirmed intelligence reports on a terror attack being plotted by the Iran-aligned militias.

Field reports confirmed that the militias have lost their fighters in large numbers across the various battlefronts. Hundreds of militiamen have fled en masse along with their military equipment, leaving the militia commanders with no options but to force defectors back to the battle fronts, where they are already losing the ability to mobilise more elements following the heavy losses they have sustained in their fights with the joint Yemeni Resistance Forces.

— with additional inputs from WAM


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