A delegation of various political groups has left Yemen to travel to Geneva for UN-moderated peace talks. It comes as Houthi fighters gained ground near the Saudi Arabian border.
The group, including Shiite Houthi rebels and members of the Socialist and Haqq political parties, flew out of the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sunday onboard a United Nations plane. A delegation representing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi touched down in Geneva on Saturday. Talks had been in doubt after news a plane meant to carry the rebel group had left empty the day before. Representatives had objected to a scheduled stopover in Saudi Arabia, as well as to two separate delegations attending the discussions. It was the second delay to the UN-hosted talks, which were indefinitely postponed in May.
The rebel political council said they had agreed to attend after the UN said it would broaden the structure so they were not based solely on two opposing sides. The UN's peace envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, called for both parties to take part in the discussions "in good faith and without pre-conditions, and in a climate of trust and mutual respect."
A member of the party loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh told state news agency Saba they wanted to resolve the current crisis in Yemen. "We are going to Geneva and are prepared to go to the farthest point in the world for the sake of our steadfast people, who suffer terribly from the barbaric bombardment and unfair blockade," he said.
Talks will now begin a day late, on Monday. Representatives from Gulf states, Egypt, Germany, Turkey, and the Netherlands will also take part.
Yemen continues to be torn apart by fighting between Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels and fighters from the now exiled Sunni President. Since March Saudi Arabia has been launching airstrikes against the rebels, but have failed to stop the Houthis' advance. The Saleh loyalists have ignored repeated requests from the exiled government to withdraw from areas currently under their control.
Ahead of the conference, UN spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said the aim of the talks was to foster ties between the factions. Discussions would "start with what we call proximity talks in two separate rooms with the hope they can be brought together," he said.
The UN Security Council and chief Ban Ki-moon have renewed calls for another humanitarian halt in the ongoing violence. Earlier this week a UN report described Yemen's situation as "catastrophic," with almost 80 percent of the population in need of some type of aid.
On Sunday the group took control of al-Jawb province, while thousands of their supporters marched in Sanaa in protest against the war. Meanwhile, according to a military source, airstrikes in Yemen's main southern city of Aden left 13 rebels dead.
an/bw (dpa, AP, AFP)