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‘Al Houthi intransigence will lead to escalation in war’

Yemen Vice President seeks international pressure on militia

Gulf News

Dubai: The failure of Yemen’s Iran-allied Al Houthi militia to attend the peace talks in Geneva is likely to lead to an escalation in the country’s war, analysts say.

Long-awaited talks between the Saudi-backed government and Al Houthi were set to start Thursday but failed to take place. With hopes of political conciliation dashed due to Al Houthi intransigence, experts fear more violence.

“We will almost certainly see a military escalation, as the initial failure of Geneva will deepen the Saudi-led coalition’s conviction that only further losses on the battlefield will cause Al Houthis to compromise,” said Graham Griffith, senior analyst at the UAE-based consultancy Control Risks.

The Geneva talks were abandoned on Saturday as fresh fighting broke out on the ground. Yemeni Vice-President Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar has urged international pressure on Al Houthis.

Yemen’s government on Saturday accused UN envoy Martin Griffiths of defending Al Houthis. Foreign Minister Khalid Al Yamani criticised Griffiths for “appeasing” the militia by refusing to lay blame for the failure of the talks squarely on their shoulders.

Griffiths is UN’s third Yemen envoy since 2014, when Al Houthis carried out a coup and overran the capital, driving President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government into exile.

The envoy said Saturday he would travel to Sana’a in Yemen and Muscat, Oman in the coming days to lay the groundwork for future talks, but hinted he might initially engage in separate discussions with the two sides.

He said it was “too early to say when the next round of consultations will take place”.

Government forces on Friday closed in on Hodeida, which had been expected to be one of the main topics of discussion in Geneva. “The next month or two may be critical for fighting over the control of Hodeida. The military operation ... could continue since nothing in the political process has changed,” said security and defence analyst Aleksandar Mitreski.

Meanwhile, backed by the coalition, the Yemeni army foiled an attempt by Al Houthis to target international shipping in the Red Sea using a booby-trapped boat. A military source in the fifth military region said the Yemeni army’s naval formation managed to seize a booby-trapped boat sent by Al Houthis into international waters in the Red Sea. The source added the boat was carrying explosive devices and travelling at a high speed of 56 kilometres per hour to intercept a merchant ship.

The source pointed out that the naval military teams of the Yemeni army intercepted and halted the boat at an unpopulated island.

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