18 June 2019

Yemen peace talks in Geneva collapse

KONFRONTASI-The Yemen peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva have collapsed, with the foreign minister of the government-in-exile blaming the Houthi representatives of refusing to meet with them. 

Foreign Minister Riad Yassin told Al Jazeera on Friday that his delegation plans to leave the negotiations and return to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.

"Until this time we have not achieved anything. Unfortunately, still the Houthis have not complied with anything," Yassin told Al Jazeera's Hashem Ahelbarra. 

"There is no progress for the time being. We did not receive any proposal."

Yassin said that Houthi representatives have even refused to leave their hotel in Geneva.

Following the collapse of talks, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, UN special envoy on Yemen, said a ceasefire should come before any new round of negotiations can start.

He vowed to "redouble effort" to reach a ceasefire, and held hope that an agreement can be achieved "pretty soon."

Earlier on Friday, Al Jazeera has learned that the parties involved in the talks also failed to reach an agreement on the number of delegates who can participate in the negotiations.

A UN official said on Tuesday that every delegation should consist of only 10 members.

"Seven delegation members and three advisers in order to have equality between the two groups," said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN chief's special envoy for Yemen.

However, the delegation from the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which includes the Iran-allied Houthis, consists of 22 members.

And the delegation members are adamant that all 22 take part in the peace negotiations.

"As a matter of fact, we cannot reduce the number of our delegations because the 22 people here represent a dozen different political parties," Yasser al-Awadi, a member of the Yemeni delegation, said.

"None of them wants to hand over their negotiation power to someone else."

The news comes as the United Nations appealed on Friday for $1.6-bn to help the millions of people in need of aid in war-torn country, warning of a "looming catastrophe".

The money is needed to address the "constantly increasing humanitarian needs in Yemen" until the end of 2015, Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN's humanitarian agency, told reporters in Geneva.

He said more than "21 million people, or 80 percent of the population, is now estimated to be in need of some form of humanitarian aid."

Saudis absent

The organisers of the peace talks have been struggling to bring together the rival Yemeni factions, with discussions due to conclude on Friday.

Awadi said he is not very optimistic about the talks because Saudi Arabia, which backs the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, was also absent in Geneva.

He said the delegation from Sanaa is looking for a general ceasefire in Yemen, rather than a partial ceasefire for the month of Ramadan, which is why the members want to negotiate with the Saudis.

Tensions between the warring Yemeni sides spilled over at a news conference in Geneva on Thursday when a shoe was thrown at the head of the Houthi delegation, Hamza al-Houthi, an act that is particularly insulting in Arab culture.

The journalist who threw the shoe said she was seeking to vent her anger at the Houthis.

"I am willing to lose my career as a journalist but not watch you kill our people every day, then come and attend a peace conference," she said.[mr/aje]

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