Yemen rebels arrive for Geneva peace talks after 24-hour delay

16th June 2015, Comments 0 comments

A Yemeni rebel delegation finally arrived in Geneva Tuesday for the second day of UN-backed peace talks after being stranded in Djibouti and accused Saudi Arabia of trying to torpedo the negotiations.

The absence of the Iran-backed rebels at the start of the high-stakes talks that were launched on Monday by UN chief Ban Ki-moon had raised concerns.

A UN-chartered plane carrying the rebels had left the Yemen capital Sanaa on Sunday afternoon but was forced to wait in Djibouti for nearly 24 hours.

The rebels -- the target of air strikes since March 26 by a Saudi-led Arab coalition -- accused Egypt and Sudan of not allowing their plane to fly over their airspace.

"It was Saudi Arabia which asked its allies" to do so with the aim of "torpedoing the negotiations", Adel Shujah, a member of the rebel team told AFP after arriving in Geneva.

He said they were able to travel on to Switzerland after the United States and Oman intervened.

Mohamed Abdel Salam, the spokesman for the Ansarullah rebel group, put up a post on Facebook thanking Oman for using "its good offices" to resolve the problem.

Oman is the only Gulf monarchy that has not joined the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels. Oman maintains good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's internationally recognised government.

Global powers are keen for a speedy resolution, fearing the growing power of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemeni branch of the jihadist network that has taken advantage of the chaos to seize territory.

On Monday, Ban underscored the need for an immediate humanitarian truce in Yemen for at least two weeks to mark the holy Muslim month of Ramadan in order to furnish critical supplies to millions of people facing acute shortages.

- Breakthrough unlikely -

The UN has described Yemen's humanitarian crisis as "catastrophic", with 80 percent of the population -- 20 million people -- in need of aid.

The UN chief held talks with a government delegation but regretted not being able to meet the rebels.

The rebel team is expected to join the talks on Tuesday afternoon. But the positions of the two warring sides are so divergent that they will not be sitting in the same room and the UN will be holding separate consultations with the government and rebel sides.

Yemen Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said the prospects for a breakthrough at the talks in Geneva were poor.

"I'm not very optimistic," Yassin told AFP, adding that the rebels "never respect any treaty" and were coming to Geneva "to make chaos".

The rebels, supported by military units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa, forcing president Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia in February.

The second day of the talks coincide with reports, confirmed by Al Qaeda in Yemen, that its leader Nasir al-Wuhayshi, number two in the global jihadist organisation, was killed in a US drone strike.

Washington has not yet commented on the death of Wuhayshi, whose group, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, has been behind several plots against the United States.

mou-at-ach/fg


© 2015 AFP

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