UN envoy says Yemen talks to focus on transition, disarmament

Pro-Houthi students demonstrate against Saudi-led coalition strikes, at Sanaa University campus in Sanaa, Yemen August 11, 2018. — Reuters pic
Pro-Houthi students demonstrate against Saudi-led coalition strikes, at Sanaa University campus in Sanaa, Yemen August 11, 2018. — Reuters pic

DUBAI, Aug 11 — Talks between Yemen’s warring parties next month will focus on a transitional governance deal and disarmament, the UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, said in remarks published today.

Griffiths is trying to negotiate an end to the three-year conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed Yemen to the verge of starvation.

Air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition killed dozens of children travelling on a bus in the northern province of Saada on Thursday. UN chief Antonia Guterres has called for an independent investigation of the raid.

Consultations are due to begin in Geneva on September 6 on a framework for peace talks and confidence-building measures.

“Primarily, we are trying to reach an agreement between the Yemeni government and (the Houthis’) Ansarullah on the issues essential to ending the war and on a national unity government in which everyone participates,” Griffiths told the Arabic-language Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

“This will require a signed agreement that includes setting up a transitional political operation under a national unity government ... and putting in place security arrangements for the withdrawal of all armed groups in Yemen and disarming them.”

He said the consultations would lead to direct negotiations.

The coalition of Sunni Muslim Arab states backed by Western powers including the United States and Britain intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 against the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Griffiths efforts have succeeded so far in averting a full assault by the military alliance on the Houthi-held main port city of Hodeidah in western Yemen, but battles and attacks have continued in the impoverished Arab state where the Houthis control the most populated areas and the capital Sanaa.

Previous UN-sponsored peace talks have failed to end the conflict, widely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and regional foe Shi’ite Muslim Iran.

The last round of talks in 2016 ended with Hadi’s government walking out after the Houthis rejected a UN proposal calling on the group to quit three main cities, including Sanaa, ahead of talks to form a government.

Griffiths said discussions on a new government should also include representatives from the General People’s Congress, once headed by slain former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the southern separatist movement, a powerful force that has provided many of the coalition-backed fighters against the Houthis.

“The future of the South will not be discussed in these consultations, but will be part of the Yemeni dialogue in the transitional period,” Griffiths said, adding that the United Nations supported a united Yemen. — Reuters

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