Hope simmers around revived Yemen peace talks

The United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is urging Yemen’s warring parties to engage in the talks in good faith.

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The ongoing conflict has claimed the lives of over 6,000 people and displaced millions of people in the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula.

The talks to end the year-long war were meant to start earlier this week but representatives of the Houthi group, allied to Iran and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, did not turn up.

The Houthis had accused the government and its military allies, led by Saudi Arabia, of violating a temporary ceasefire.

The UN has been trying to negotiate the talks as a shaky truce, declared on April the 10th, verges on collapse.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric is hopeful.

“The delegations will focus on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2216. They’re expected to develop a framework that paves the way for a peaceful and orderly process based on the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative and the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference.”

Despite earlier boycotting the talks, Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdel-Salam says they will now participate.

“The national delegation, composed of “Ansaru Allah (Houthis) and their allies and the General People’s Congress party and its allies, will travel to Muscat in accordance with the recently held consultations. Yesterday, we received a message from the permanent members of the UN Security Council and also from the Omani leadership. We contacted senior officials at the UN and received messages from Kuwait. Anyway, our end is to go and for the dialogue to succeed. We came from the battlefield. The bombing is, unfortunately, still underway.”

Yemeni political commentator Mohammed Shamsan says there are positive signs.

“In fact, many positive signs show that the two sides in the Yemen conflict will finally achieve certain political reconciliation. Because the two sides all have realized that it is necessary to end the war and reach a political agreement. It is very likely that the Kuwait talks will be successful. The possibility is much higher than the past two talks in Geneva.”

Visiting Riyadh, US President Barack Obama has discussed the conflict in Yemen with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, ahead of a summit of Gulf Arab leaders.

But the US, together with countries such as Britain and France, is being accused of fuelling the conflict in Yemen by supplying billions of dollars of military hardware to Saudi Arabia.

The UN says most of Yemen’s casualties have been civilians, and it blames Saudi-led coalition air strikes for the majority of deaths.

William Harten, from the Centre for International Policy in Washington DC, has told the BBC there’s been an unprecedented amount of weapons sales from the US to Saudi Arabia – around US$50 billion in President Obama’s first six years of office alone.

“In theory, under US law systematic human rights abuses, patterns of such, should result in a restriction of sales. But the Saudis have been given pretty much a free pass. I mean if we look at what they’ve done in Yemen it’s hard to think of a more set of systematic human rights abuses, and yet there’s been no cessation of sales of even a suspension of sales.”

Yemeni commentator Mohammed Shamsan is warning that the talks in Kuwait could be the last chance for Yemen.

“If it fails, the results will be disastrous. The bleeding will continue and the war and destruction will go on. It will become very difficult to realize another peace time. If this chance is lost, Yemen will walk into a blind alley. I think it will be unlikely to find another chance to solve the problems through the ceasefire.”