Yemen government ready to re-start talks with rebels

Houthi rebel fighters. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

Houthi rebel fighters. (Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

Yemen’s government said on Thursday that it was ready to re-start peace talks with Huthi rebels, as international pressure to end the years-long conflict intensifies.

The United Nations said a day earlier it aimed to relaunch the talks within a month, after a previous attempt collapsed in September when the rebels refused to attend.

“The Republic of Yemen welcomes all efforts to restore peace,” a government statement carried by the state-run Saba news agency said.

“The government of Yemen is ready to immediately launch talks on the process of confidence-building, primarily the release of all detainees and prisoners, as well as those who have been abducted or subject to enforced disappearance,” it said.

The United States this week called for an immediate end to the hostilities in Yemen, where Washington backs a Saudi-led coalition fighting alongside the government against the Iran-backed Huthis.

READ MORE: The business of war in Yemen­ – how Saudi dollars keep the arms flowing

In September, the Huthis refused to travel to Geneva for planned peace talks, accusing the UN of failing to guarantee their delegation’s return to the Yemeni capital Sanaa and to secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.

Previous talks broke down in 2016, when 108 days of negotiations in Kuwait between the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and the rebels failed to yield a deal.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week called for an end to the Yemen war, including air strikes, in an implicit acknowledgement that the Saudi-led coalition was involved in the bombing of civilians.

Both the Huthis and Saudi Arabia along with its allies stand accused of transgressions that could amount to war crimes.

The coalition has been blacklisted by the UN for the maiming and killing of children in a country where 14 million people now face starvation.

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is the target of the longest drone war in US history.

In 2012, the US expanded a covert war against the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which Washington categorises as the radical group’s most dangerous branch.

The World Health Organisation estimates that nearly 10 000 people have been killed in Yemen since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened after the Huthis seized Sanaa.

Rights groups say the toll could be as high as 50 000.

© Agence France-Presse

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