AP Yahya Douaid, a member of the Al Houthi delegation heading to peace talks in Kuwait briefs media at Sana’a airport on Wednesday. Image Credit: AP

Kuwait City: Peace talks between Yemen’s warring factions are on hold pending the arrival of rebel representatives to the UN-backed negotiations, diplomats told AFP on Thursday.

The talks were initially scheduled to start on Monday, and any further delay could dash hopes of ending Yemen’s war after the government delegation threatened to pull out if meetings did not begin immediately.

“According to the latest information, the rebel delegation should arrive in Kuwait by the end of the day,” said one diplomat close to the talks.

“As a result, the talks could be delayed further until Friday,” another diplomat said.

On Wednesday, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said negotiations would begin in Kuwait on Thursday.

There was still no word Thursday from the rebels on their expected time of arrival.

Representatives of the Iran-backed Al Houthi militants and their allies left Sana’a on Wednesday for Oman and they are expected to continue on to Kuwait.

But they were still in Oman on Thursday morning, according to diplomats.

On Wednesday, Yemen’s Iran-backed Al Houthi militants and their allies agreed to join delayed United Nations-brokered peace talks in Kuwait, their representatives said yesterday.

On Tuesday UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had urged Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government and the militants to work with his envoy Esmail Ould Shaikh Ahmad “so that talks can start without further delay”.

A Western diplomat in Kuwait said that representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council sent a message to the militants urging them to “quickly join” the talks.

Al Houthis claim the reason they are stalling to attend talks are ceasefire violations from the Saudi-led Arab coalition. Saudi Arabia has denied violations and said its air strikes are focused on Al Qaida targets.

They accuse Al Houthis of finding excuses to delay their attendance in order to receive more weapons shipments from Iran.

Yemeni sources close to the talks say Al Houthis are demanding the lifting of UN sanctions against Saleh and Al Houthi leaders.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government is demanding Al Houthis abide by a Security Council resolution calling for a political process and for the militants to withdraw from cities they seized while surrendering their weapons.

Last week, Al Houthis agreed to allow Yemen’s legitimate government back to operate in the Yemeni capital Sana’a. They also agreed to hand over heavy arms to the state, Al Houthi spokesman Mohammad Abdul Salam told Kuwait’s daily Al Rai on Friday.

Abdul Salam said the militant group would also allow Yemen’s current vice president Ali Mohsen Al Ahmar, and influential oil and telecom tycoon, Hamad Al Ahmar, back into Sana’a. The promised concessions by Al Houthis herald a major shift in their policy.

Meanwhile on the ground, fighting wore on on several fronts on Thursday, military sources said, as each side blamed the other for truce breaches.

Al Houthis late on Wednesday fired a Katyusha rocket on the government-held city of Marib, east of the capital, according to an AFP journalist there.

Pro-government military sources reported heavy fighting in Nahm, northeast of Sana’a, as well as sporadic clashes in the northern Jawf province, Taiz in the southwest, and central Bayda province.

The talks are the most important attempt yet to resolve Yemen’s devastating conflict, which the UN says has killed more than 6,400 people and forced almost 2.8 million forced from their homes.