Middle East

UN envoy in Sanaa in run-up to fresh Yemen talks

Kuwait-hosted peace talks between Yemen’s warring camps set to resume Friday after two-week hiatus

UN envoy in Sanaa in run-up to fresh Yemen talks UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed


By Zakaria al-Kamaali and Ali Oweida


UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday in the run-up to a fresh round of UN-sponsored peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Shia Houthi group, which overran Sanaa and other parts of the country in 2014.

Later today, Ould Cheikh is expected to meet with representatives of both the Houthis and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh (the Houthis’ primary ally), a Houthi source told Anadolu Agency, requesting anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media.

A second round of talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis is slated to kick off in Kuwait on Friday following a two-week hiatus.

A government source told Anadolu Agency earlier that Ould Cheikh had met with government negotiators in the Saudi capital on Tuesday but had failed to persuade them to attend the upcoming round of talks in Kuwait.

On the same day, several Yemeni political parties called on the government to suspend its participation in the negotiations until the Houthis abide by UN Security Council Resolution 2216 of last year, which calls on the Shia group to withdraw from captured cities and lay down their arms.

In a related development Wednesday, 17 Houthi fighters and eight army troops were killed in clashes that broke out in Sanaa’s eastern Nihm district, according to Abdullah al-Shandaqi, a spokesman for Yemen’s pro-government "popular resistance" forces.

In a statement, al-Shandaqi said government troops had succeeded in establishing control over the district’s Jabl al-Zahab region in the wake of the clashes.

The spokesman’s assertions, however, could not be independently verified by Houthi sources.

Yemen has been rocked by chaos since late 2014, when the Houthis and their allies overran Sanaa and other parts of the country, forcing President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and his Saudi-backed government to temporarily flee to Riyadh.

In March of last year, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive military campaign in Yemen aimed at reversing Houthi gains and restoring Hadi’s embattled government.

Backed by Saudi-led airstrikes, pro-Hadi forces have since managed to reclaim large swathes of the country’s south -- including provisional capital Aden -- but have failed to retake Sanaa and other strategic areas.

In April of this year, the Yemeni government and the Houthis entered into UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait aimed at resolving the conflict, in which thousands have been killed and an estimated 2.5 million forced to flee their homes.

The negotiations, which were temporarily suspended late last month, have so far failed to produce any breakthroughs.

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