Yemen’s exiled president has said his government will not negotiate with Iran-backed Houthi rebels at UN-sponsored peace talks due to open in Switzerland this weekend.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said on Monday that the sole item for discussion would be the implementation of a resolution adopted by the UN Security Council in April, demanding that rebels withdraw from the swaths of the country they have seized.
“There will be no negotiations,” Hadi told Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya television. “It will be just a discussion about how to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216. We will have a consultation.”
Asked if his government’s delegation would discuss reconciliation with the rebel negotiating team, Hadi said: “Not at all.”
Meanwhile, Mohammed al-Houthi, the president of the Houthi Revolution Council, told Al Jazeera that the rebels had confirmed their attendance in the Geneva talks “for the sake of the Yemeni people”.
“Millions in Yemen are living through a tragic humanitarian crisis and we refuse to sit and watch as the innocent suffer,” said al-Houthi, who is the second in command of the Houthi group. “We accepted even though attacks on our country have not been halted.”
He said the Houthis “never said no to political dialogue whether in Yemen or outside, but insisted that no foreign sides should influence the decisions that will result in building the new Yemen”.
“We want the Yemeni people to decide for themselves what they want,” said al-Houthi.
He said the group was not “fully satisfied” with a number of the UN stances, but they were still hopeful “they stand with the truth”.
“All sides, including us, must work to ensure the UN efforts do not halter and fail,” said al-Houthi.
Announcing the talks on Saturday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked all sides to enter the talks without preconditions.
Ban “reiterates his urgent call on all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations in good faith and without preconditions in the interest of all Yemeni people”, his spokesman said.
He said the talks were aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Houthi rebels and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.
After overrunning the capital Sanaa last September, the Houthis seized much of the country, prompting an Arab coalition to launch a bombing campaign against them on March 26.
In the interview, Hadi again hit out at Iran, charging that its meddling in his country’s affairs was “more dangerous than al-Qaeda”.
“Al-Qaeda could be eliminated, but here we have a systematically politicised action,” he said.
Iran has always denied supporting the rebels.