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UN Yemen envoy blasts Al Houthis’ declared government

Says there is still a chance to pull Yemen ‘back from the brink’ but stresses that all parties should recommit to a halt to military activities

Image Credit: Supplied
Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad
Gulf News

Geneva: The formation of a new government by Yemen’s armed Al Houthi movement and its political allies will hinder peace efforts in the country, the UN special envoy to Yemen said on Tuesday.

The move, reported by Al Houthi-run state news agency on Monday, has been seen as a blow to UN-backed efforts to end 20 months of war in Yemen.

“The announcement by (Al Houthi) Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress on the formation of a new government in Sana’a represents a new and concerning obstacle to the peace process and does not serve the interests of the people of Yemen in these difficult times,” Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad said in a statement.

The rebels announced the line-up of a “national salvation” government on Monday as the United Nations tried to revive peace efforts in the war-wracked country.

President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, whose forces have been battling Al Houthi rebels and their allies since 2014, said on Tuesday their announcement of a new government “destroys any chance of dialogue and peace”.

The unilateral declaration contradicted recent comments by Al Houthis to the UN and to US Secretary of State John Kerry, and only complicated the search for a peace deal, which needed to be based on UN talks, Ould Shaikh Ahmad said.

“There is still a chance to pull Yemen back from the brink,” he said, adding that all parties to the conflict should recommit to a cessation of hostilities, including a complete halt to ground and air military activities.

The formation of the new government was also condemned by the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose member Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition backing Hadi, the internationally recognised president.

The coalition has carried out thousands of air strikes on Al Houthis but failed to dislodge them from the capital Sana’a.

“The step of forming a government indicates the enormous importance of reinforcing our domestic position and serving the people, despite the difficult economic situation,” Al Houthi group’s leader, Abdul Malik Al Houthi, said in a statement carried on the website of a Al Houthi-controlled news channel.

Diplomats had hoped Al Houthis, who control Sana’a, would hold off on putting together a cabinet of their loyalists and instead form a unity government with their Yemeni foes, whom they pushed into Saudi exile.

Al Houthis, who control territory with more than half of Yemen’s population, previously said forming a government with their allies did not mean abandoning the UN-sponsored peace process.

The conflict has killed more than 7,000 people and displaced more than three million others.