Talks between Yemen's government and rebels had to be delayed after the insurgents failed to attend the event in Kuwait. The UN envoy to Yemen said that the country was never this close to peace.
The UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen's warring factions - scheduled to begin in Kuwait this Monday, April 18 - will have to be postponed. The talks in Kuwait aimed to bring an end to more than 13 months of fighting that have devastated already-impoverished Yemen. A week-old ceasefire was intended to pave the way for the peace talks but has repeatedly been breached.
The UN's special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said in a statement that "due to developments over the last few hours, the start of the Yemeni-Yemeni peace negotiations scheduled to begin today... will be delayed."
"We are working to overcome the latest challenges and ask the delegations to show good faith and participate in the talks in order to reach a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Yemen," Cheikh Ahmed added. He did not specify why the talks had to be rescheduled. He had earlier expressed hopes for the talks, telling the UN Security Council earlier in April that Yemen had "never been so close to peace" since the conflict flared up.
Among the issues meant to be discussed in Kuwait were security arrangements, the withdrawal of militias and armed groups, the handover of heavy weapons and the release of prisoners.
Trading the blame
Delegations representing the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh were due to arrive in Kuwait ahead of the talks, but while the government delegation led by Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi managed to come to Kuwait on time, the rebel delegation remained behind in Yemen. A source close to the government delegation in Kuwait City told the AFP news agency that the rebels "haven't left Sanaa," claiming that they were "procrastinating."
A recent ceasefire between the warring parties has repeatedly been broken, resuling in Houthi rebel leaders not attending the peace talks in Kuwait
Activist Hamzah Al-Kemaly, accompanying the Yemeni government delegation, meanwhile told Germany's DPA news agency that the Houthis "decided to wait until they have guarantees that the Saudi-led coalition and the forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi would abide by the ceasefire."
Yemen's government spokesman Rageh Bady told the private Saudi broadcaster al-Arabiya al-Hath in an interview that the delay in the talks was due to internal disagreements between the Houthi and Saleh delegations over calming the situation on the Saudi-Yemeni border.
Fighters loyal to Saleh have reportedly been fighting pro-government forces alongside the Houthis. Jihadis including members of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have also exploited the conflict to seize territory and gain influence.
Protests for peace
Meanwhile, hundreds of people in Yemen's volatile city of Taiz protested against an ongoing siege, calling on the parties involved in the Kuwait peace talks to take their situation into consideration. The central city has for months been a battleground between the forces of Saudi-backed Hadi and Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Yemen has been in turmoil since September 2014, when the rebels and fighters loyal to Saleh overran the capital Sanaa, ultimately forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. By March of 2015, Saudi Arabia launched attacks in neighboring Yemen with allies in the region to restore Hadi to power. UN efforts have so far failed to end war in Yemen - one of the Arab world's poorest countries.
Previous attempts at peace talks - including a failed round in January 2016 - failed to stop the conflict, which the UN says has killed more than 6,400 people while displacing almost 2.8 million.
ss/msh (AFP, dpa)