Soldiers loyal to Yemen’s exiled government stand at an area where they are fighting against the Houthi militia in Yemen’s central province of Marib September 13, 2015. Image Credit: Reuters

Al Mukalla: Yemen’s internationally recognised government said on Monday that it had not backed out of planned, UN-brokered peace talks with Al Houthi militia, but rather “emphasised” that the UN Security Council resolution 2216 should be a reference point for any dialogue.

“We did not take a new line on the talks. We just emphasised that the Al Houthi militias and the deposed president [Ali Abdullah Saleh] should first recognise the UN Security Council resolution,” Abdul Raqeeb Fateh, the minister of Local Administration, told Gulf News.

Agreeing to join UN talks to end nearly seven months of conflict that is ravaging the country, the Riyadh-based government issued a statement on Saturday saying that the Al Houthis and allied forces should first accept the UN resolution that compels them to pull out of cities, returning weapons to the state and allowing the exiled government to resume duties from Yemen.

“This is not a new condition. The deposed president [Saleh] wants to drag us to satanic talks he is not inclined to comply with. We want a clear commitment [from Al Houthis and allied forces] that they will be abide by the resolution and then we can go to talks to discuss the details.”

The desperately poor country has been devastated by months of conflict between the Al Houthi militia who came to the fore last year after controlling the capital and the government of president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The tension between the two sides turned into a bloody war when the Al Houthis advanced in March into Hadi’s new base in the southern port city of Aden triggering fierce clashes and promoting neighbouring Saudi Arabia into forming a coalition of some allied Arab countries and launched a heavy bombardment on the militia’s positions and strongholds.

For the past few months, the militia have kept saying that their representatives have been engaged in consultations in Oman with the UN envoy to Yemen and other parties to discuss how to end the conflict. Hadi’s government denies that it has ever taken part in the talks with Al Houthis.

Analysts say that the government’s persistence in setting up the UN resolution as a precondition stems from its apprehension that joining any talks before accepting the resolution would mean giving legitimacy to Al Houthis’ overthrow of the government.

Najjeb Gallab, a political analyst and a critic of the Al Houthi movement, said that recent military gains on the ground is behind the Al Houthis push for talks.

“Any peace talks before accepting the UN resolution would legitimise [Al Houthis’] coup and consider the legitimate government as rebellious. The Al Houthis are being worn down as government and coalitions forces are gaining victories on the ground.”

Meanwhile, Saudi-backed loyalist forces in Yemen pressed an offensive against the Al Houthis on Monday, the second day of a major campaign aimed at retaking the capital a year after its fall.

Fighters loyal to exiled President Hadi launched their much anticipated attack against the militia and their allies in the key province of Marib.

“The aim is to cut the supply routes of the Al Houthis,” a military official said.

Out of their Al Aber base in nearby Hadramout province, government troops have moved towards four militia footholds in northwest Marib, on the route to Sana’a.

At a landing zone in Safer camp, in Marib, a journalist reported fully-armed coalition Apache helicopters taking off and returning, as a convoy of armoured vehicles and personnel carriers headed to the front.

Coalition forces have also deployed Patriot missile defence systems, Yemeni military sources said, following a September 4 missile attack on Safer that killed 67 coalition troops.

with inputs from AFP