Yemen’s Houthi rebels have left for Kuwait to resume UN-mediated talks, amid threats of a boycott by the Saudi-backed, internationally recognised government.
The negotiators, who left on Thursday, are representatives of Ansar Allah, the political arm of the rebel Houthi movement, which has controlled the capital Sanaa since 2014.
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Previous peace talks failed to bridge the gap between the warring parties, while a ceasefire that went into effect in April has been marred by multiple breaches from both sides.
President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi demands implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which stipulates the withdrawal of armed groups from all cities.
The Houthis demand a share of power in a new government. The group is also pressing to transfer Hadi’s presidential authorities to the new transitional government.
In June, UN Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the UN Security Council that the opposing parties – Yemen’s internationally recognised government and Houthi rebels and their allied troops loyal to a former president – had responded positively to a proposed plan he presented to end the conflict.
He said that what was left to be finalised was a timeline and sequence of the steps in the plan – including when a national unity government would be created.
The war in Yemen has killed some 9,000 people and pushed the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
It has also created a vacuum that has enabled both Yemen’s al-Qaeda branch and an upstart affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) to seize territory and carry out large-scale attacks.
A high-ranking Yemeni official said that Hadi’s government was under pressure from Western allies to join the talks. The official spoke to the AP news agency on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.
The talks, scheduled to take place on Friday, come shortly after Ahmed, the UN envoy, paid a visit to Sanaa, where he met for the first time with ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh.