Al Houthis demand halt to airstrikes to join peace talks

Observers say losses incurred by Al Houthis since last talks means they are more likely to attend the next round

Image Credit: AP
From left: US Secretary of State John Kerry, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad make a joint statement on Yemen, in London on Sunday. They urged the warring parties in Yemen to declare a ceasefire within days.
Gulf News

Al Mukalla: Al Houthis have demanded that the Saudi-led coalition halts airstrikes on their fighters and end air and sea blockade of the country as a pre-condition for their joining any peace talks with the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Foreign ministers of the US and the UK along with UN envoy to Yemen on Sunday called on Yemen’s warring factions to stop fighting and put into effect a new truce.

Mohammad Abdul Sallam, Al Houthis’ spokesperson said his movement would agree to honour any new truce or peace talks when the Saudis end their aerial bombardment on their fighters and military sites. “Talks with the continued aggression are waste of time.” he said on Twitter. Once again, Hadi’s government said it would accept the proposed truce provided there are firm guarantees that Al Houthis and their ally, ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, would not exploit the few days’ respite from air raids to regroup and resupply.

On Monday, Hadi said at a meeting with his senior aides in Riyadh that he discussed many “serious” peace proposals and his government would positively deal with any effort based on UN Security resolution 2216, the GCC peace initiative and the outcomes of National Dialogue Conference.

A member of government delegation in the latest round of peace talks in Kuwait told Gulf News from Riyadh that his team has not received any alert from the government about possible new peace talks, adding that they told UN Envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad at their last meeting ten days ago that they agreed in principle to any truce, but suspected the militia would adhere to it.

“The government wanted to make sure this new truce would not be like the previous one when the Al Houthis made use of the ceasefire to expand on the ground. In principle, the government is in favour of the truce even for 72 hours.” the delegate said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief reporters.

Observers here think that the rebel movement might accept fresh peace plans quicker that previous days as they have lost many bargaining chips since the collapse of the last round of peace talks in Kuwait. Government forces have partially broken their siege on Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, and taken control of new regions in the northern province of Jawf. But the government incursion into the militia’ heartland in the northern province of Saada is seen as the most significant victory by the government forces for the last couple of months that could force the militia to make big concessions.