Yemen peace talks delayed over fighting accusations

Talks between Houthi rebels and exiled government yet to begin as rebels accuse Arab coalition of air raids.

Yemen''s southwestern city of Taiz
On Sunday, hundreds of people in the city took to the streets protesting a months-long siege [File Photo: Anees Mahyoub/Reuters]

Talks aimed at ending more than a year of civil war and a Saudi-led intervention in Yemen have been delayed, as Houthi rebel representatives objected to what they said was continued fighting.

Delegations representing the Houthis and the party of a former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who control the capital Sanaa, have yet to depart for the talks.

They cited heavy fighting and Saudi-led air operations as the reason for the delay in heading to the talks, which were to be held in Kuwait.

“There’s no point in going … if there’s no respect for the ceasefire,” a senior official in Saleh’s General People’s Congress party told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Kuwait, confirmed that the Houthis had yet to arrive. He said the government delegation was already there.

There was optimism surrounding the talks, Elshayyal said, adding that neither side had “the same kind of urge to continue this bloody war.”

The coalition started a campaign of air strikes last year in support of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was pushed into exile by the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh.

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Two Hadi government officials, who spoke anonymously to Reuters, said the rebels had no good reason not to travel to Kuwait.

“Representatives from Saleh’s party and the Houthis are looking for excuses to delay their arrival at a precise time, but it’s expected that they will arrive later in Kuwait on Tuesday,” one of the officials said.

Hisham al-Omeisy, a political analyst based in Sanaa, told Al Jazeera that the talks in Kuwait were a positive development.

“The warring parties are exhausted, they need an exit,” he said.

UN-sponsored talks in June and December failed to end the war that has killed about 6,200 people – half of them civilians.

A security vacuum created by the conflict has allowed the local affiliate of al-Qaeda to seize territory and opened a path for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group to gain a foothold.

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“The only winner of the war is al-Qaeda and ISIL,” al-Omeisy said. “They are expanding exponentially in the south. 

“The spread of ISIL and al-Qaeda is freaking international community. They are putting pressure for a political solution.”

Fighting and air strikes persist on several battlefronts throughout the country, especially in the contested southwestern city of Taiz and the Nehm area, east of the capital.

On Sunday, hundreds of people in Taiz protested a months-long siege.

The protesters demanded an end to a siege they saw was imposed by the Houthi rebels on Taiz and carried photos of civilians killed in recent shelling, residents told DPA news agency.

The city has for months been a battleground between forces loyal to Hadi and the Iran-allied Houthis.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies