Yemeni government suspends participation in Kuwait peace talks, demands guarantees

T-Mag Wednesday 18/May/2016 16:28 PM
By: Times News Service
Yemeni government suspends participation in Kuwait peace talks, demands guarantees

Kuwait: The Yemeni government late on Tuesday suspended its participation in UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait and said it would only return if its opponents, the Houthis, committed to withdraw from cities they have seized since 2014 and hand over weapons.
A wide gap still separates the Houthis and the government of President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi after nearly a month of peace talks in Kuwait intended to end a year of war that has killed more than 6,200 people, half of them civilians.
The talks centre on government demands for the Houthis to hand over their weapons and quit cities captured since 2014 and the formation of a new government that would include the Houthis. The Hadi government is currently based in the southern Yemeni port of Aden while the Houthis retain control of the capital Sanaa.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel Malek Al Mekhlafi said the government delegation had decided to suspend its participation in the consultations after the Houthis informed them they did not recognise Hadi's legitimacy.
"We will not return until we get a letter from them that commits them to the UN Security Council resolutions, the Gulf initiative and the outcome of the (national) dialogue... the issue of legitimacy is not subject to discussion," Mekhlafi told a news conference in Kuwait city.
"If they do not make such a commitment, then there is no point for these talks to continue and as such they (the Houthis) bear responsibility," he said.
Mekhlafi accused the Houthis of plundering Yemen's foreign reserves, which he said had stood at $4 billion in 2014, but he said the government delegation had no plan to leave Kuwait, allowing further scope to diplomacy.
Osama Sari, an activist in the Houthi group, said the government's decision to suspend its participation in the peace talks had "unmasked its bad intentions".
The peace talks began last month after a shaky ceasefire was consolidated, easing the almost daily clashes in the country.
Representatives of the warring sides formed joint political and security committees last week but have made little progress toward a full ceasefire or political transition plan.
Yemen's civil war escalated when an armed push by the Houthis pushed the Hadi government into exile on March 26, 2015.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said on Tuesday its humanitarian aid appeal for $1.8 billion for Yemen was only 16 per cent funded and some 7.6 million people were on the verge of famine.
UN aid operations director John Ging told reporters in New York that more than 10 million people rely on international support for basic medical services.
"Over the past couple of months we have seen a shocking fall off in terms of donor funding for basic humanitarian support," Ging said. "We're only asking for the minimum that is required to keep people alive in these awful circumstances."
Ging, who has just returned from a visit to Yemen, said donors to the Yemen appeal in 2016 included the United States, Britain, the European Commission and Japan. He said people in Yemen felt they had been abandoned by the world.
Yemen relies almost solely on imports, but the conflict has slowed to a trickle commercial shipments to the impoverished country where 80 per cent of people need humanitarian aid.
The United Nations announced earlier this month it would start inspecting shipments to rebel-held ports in Yemen in a bid to boost commercial imports and enforce an arms embargo. It took the world body some eight months to get the $8 million needed to set up the verification and inspection mechanism.
"So far the mechanism has been working well," Ging said. "What we're waiting to see is what will its positive effect be and we should be able to see that in the coming weeks."