Peace talks between Yemen’s Houthi rebels and government are due to begin in Kuwait after the Houthis agreed to participate following assurances that pro-government forces would respect a ceasefire, the United Nations has said.
A delegation of Houthi representatives and their allies flew out of Sanaa on Wednesday to join the talks, saying the UN had assured them over the truce.
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“The Yemeni peace negotiations will start tomorrow in Kuwait under the auspices of the United Nations,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said from New York.
The UN-brokered talks had been set to open in Kuwait on Monday but were put off after the Iran-backed fighters failed to show up over alleged violations of the ceasefire, which took effect on April 11.
The Yemeni government delegation, which arrived in Kuwait at the weekend, had threatened to pull out if the talks did not start on Thursday morning.
The delegation, in a statement, also accused the Houthi rebels of violating the ceasefire in many areas.
The talks are the most important attempt yet to resolve Yemen’s devastating conflict, which the UN says has killed more than 6,400 people and forced almost 2.8 million from their homes.
An Arab coalition launched air strikes in Yemen 13 months ago after the rebels, who had seized control of Sanaa in 2014, advanced in other parts of the country.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government fled to the southern city port of Aden but its members still spend most of their time in Riyadh.
Government loyalists have managed since July to reclaim large parts of the south, including Aden, but have been unable to oust the Houthi rebels and their allies from Sanaa and other key areas.
On Tuesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged Hadi’s government and the rebels to work with his envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed “so that talks can start without further delay”.
A representative of the rebel-allied General People’s Congress party, Yasser Alawadi, had said on Twitter that his delegation would travel to Kuwait on Thursday.
The GPC is led by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who ruled the country for 33 years until 2012 and has joined forces with the Houthis.
Yemeni sources close to the talks say that the fighters are demanding the lifting of UN sanctions against Saleh and Houthi leaders.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government is demanding that the Houthis abide by a Security Council resolution calling for a political process and for the rebels to withdraw from cities they seized while surrendering their weapons.