Yemen govt wants rebel pullback before joining UN talks

A view of a building destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike is seen in Yemen's Haradh on May 20, 2015. ─ Reuters

RIYADH: Yemen's government in exile wants rebels to pull back from seized territory before it agrees to join United Nations-convened talks in Geneva on May 28, Yemen Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin said on Wednesday.

“We are not going unless there is something on the ground,” Yassin told AFP by telephone.

He said the government had not been invited officially to the meeting, which UN chief Ban Ki-moon called to “restore momentum towards a Yemeni-led political transition process” after weeks of war in which about 1,850 people have died.

But even if it is invited, Yassin said the government will not attend without some implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 as a sign of “goodwill”.

The April resolution imposed an arms embargo on the Houthi rebels and demanded they relinquish seized territory.

“We will not attend if there is no implementation, at least part of it. If there is no withdrawal from Aden at least, or Taiz,” Yassin said.

Read more: Fighting rages on in Yemen, killing 10, as humanitarian ceasefire draws to an end

The Houthis have occupied large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, since late last year.

Their southward push forced President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and his government to flee to Riyadh and prompted a Saudi-led coalition in March to begin air strikes against the Houthis.

“If we go now, it will be a prize for Houthi rebels,” Yassin said.

At a conference of Yemeni political factions that ended in Riyadh on Tuesday, Hadi said “dialogue is the only way to take Yemen out of its deadlock”.

But he made clear that any talks with the rebels must be held under Resolution 2216.

The Houthis, whose stronghold is in northern Yemen, have long complained of marginalisation.

They boycotted the Riyadh meeting and it remained unclear if they would join the Geneva talks.

Earlier this week, the Saudi coalition rejected the notion of a new ceasefire after the previous one expired Sunday ─ despite UN pleas to extend the truce ─ because the Houthi militia and its allies violated the truce.

Read more: Houthi violations ended truce: Yemen foreign minister

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