Geneva, Switzerland – Yemen’s foreign minister has harshly criticised UN diplomats for not putting pressure on the Houthi rebel group to attend peace talks in Geneva, dooming them to failure.
Minister Khaled al-Yamani, who was heading the Yemeni delegation, said that Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths was providing the Houthis with “excuses” after the UN diplomat blamed their failure to attend to logistical problems.
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“The special envoy’s words are unfortunately accommodating the coup-plotters and giving them excuses,” said al-Yamani, referring to the Houthi group, officially known as Ansar Allah.
“The lack of pressure on this group of coup-plotters has encouraged them to continue blackmailing the international community … When was a special envoy given such flexibility as to disregard a UN resolution?” the minister said, referring to UN resolution 2216.
The Resolution calls on all parties in the conflict, in particular the Houthis, to end violence and refrain from unilateral actions that threaten the political transition.
Al-Yamani’s remarks came few minutes after the special envoy said the United Nations had failed to create the proper circumstances for the Houthis to attend the conference, hinting that logistics were the problem.
“It is important to know that Ansar Allah also wanted to be here and they are disappointed at not being here,” said the envoy.
“We all wanted to get the circumstances right to make Ansar Allah confident about coming… but we didn’t make it,” Griffiths told reporters gathered at the Palais des Nations.
Griffiths dismissed media reports that the Houthis were not allowed to leave Sanaa.
Houthi-run Saba news agency earlier reported that the Saudi-led alliance was refusing to authorise the departure of an Omani plane with the Houthi delegation leaving from Sanaa.
“Nobody was trying to block anyone,” he said. “There were issues of how to get here, we were not able to resolve that … it’s not the first time we have difficulties of logistics in Yemen.”
Griffiths said he didn’t see this as a fundamental obstacle to the peace talks, adding that he would go to the Omani capital Muscat and to Sanaa to continue discussions with Houthi leaders.
The UN special envoy said that he held consultations with the Government of Yemen focusing on confidence building measures, such as the reopening of Sanaa Airport, the release of prisoners and a range of humanitarian issues.
Griffiths added that he would start working on holding new talks between the two sides wherever, whenever.
However, a few minutes later, the Yemeni foreign minister refused to answer positively as to a Yemeni participation to a tentative new round. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said.
The talks, which would have been the first in nearly two years, were scheduled to take place from Thursday but were delayed twice in two days.
On Friday, a member of the Houthi delegation told Al Jazeera the group was prepared to attend the talks if three of their demands were met.
Hameed Assem said the demands included transport of wounded rebels to Oman, repatriation of those who had already received treatment there and a guarantee that the Houthi delegation would be allowed to return to Sanaa from Geneva.
Yemen remains wracked by violence since the Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa, in 2014.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and allies – who accuse the Houthis of being Iranian proxies – launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back rebel gains.
Iran and the Houthis deny the accusations.
Now entering its fourth year, the war has pushed more than 22 million people to seek humanitarian assistance.
According to UNICEF, 11 million children, a number greater than the entire population of Switzerland, need humanitarian assistance every day.