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Talks on Yemen war end without agreement

June 20, 2015

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Rebel's delegation Mohammed Zubairi, Head of delegation Hamza al-Houthi, Yahya Doaid and Abd al-Malik al-Hagri attend a press conference at the end Yemen peace talks in Geneva. — AFP
Rebel's delegation Mohammed Zubairi, Head of delegation Hamza al-Houthi, Yahya Doaid and Abd al-Malik al-Hagri attend a press conference at the end Yemen peace talks in Geneva. — AFP

GENEVA: Yemen peace talks ended in Geneva on Friday with no agreement, but the United Nations said it was still optimistic a ceasefire could be reached “pretty soon”.

“I won’t beat around the bush. There was no kind of agreement reached,” said the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

But he hailed “certain positive signs” in his negotiations with the warring factions, adding that both sides seemed to agree on the need for a ceasefire.

“We feel that it requires simply some further consultations and that we can achieve it pretty soon,” said Mr Ahmed, who would now head to New York to brief UN chief Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on the discussions, before heading to the region to push forward with new peace efforts.

No date has yet been set for a fresh round of talks, but the UN envoy said he hoped a desperately needed humanitarian pause in the fighting could be put in place before future talks are held.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between Houthi rebels and troops loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia in February.

The rebels have overrun much of the Sunni-majority country and, along with their allies among forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been the target of Saudi-led air strikes since March. More than 2,600 people have been killed since then.

The UN secretary general launched the high-stakes Geneva negotiations on Monday with an appeal for a two-week humanitarian truce during the holy month of Ramazan. But the belligerents’ positions were so far apart that they did even sit down in the same room, forcing Mr Ahmed to shuttle between them for separate consultations.

Yemen’s exiled Foreign Minister Riad Yassin blamed the lack of progress on the rebel delegation. “We really came here with a big hope ... but unfortunately the Houthi delegation did not allow us to reach real progress as we expected,” he told reporters.

The government delegation remained optimistic of a peaceful solution for Yemen “under the umbrella of the UN”, he added.

A member of the rebel delegation, Yehya Doueid, meanwhile said the talks had not lasted long enough. “The necessary time was not provided (by the UN) to allow these talks to end in an agreement,” he said.

Mr Ahmed however insisted that just getting the two sides to Geneva had been “a great achievement”, as he pledged to intensify his push for peace.

“The Geneva consultations are not the end in themselves, but the launch of a long and arduous path” towards finding a peaceful solution, he said.

As the talks wrapped up on Friday, the UN launched an appeal for $1.6 billion to help millions of people in need in the war-ravaged country.

“I am deliberately raising the alarm about the looming humanitarian catastrophe facing Yemen, where over 21 million Yemenis, 80 per cent of the country’s population, are in need of some form of aid to meet their basic needs or protect their basic rights today,” the UN’s new humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brian told reporters.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2015

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