Yemeni peace talks to resume Monday amid 'staggering' humanitarian crisis

Ahram Online , Sunday 17 Apr 2016

A Yemeni fighter loyal to President Abd-rabbo Mansour Hadi looks at smoke rising in the distance in the Sirwah area, in Marib province, on April 10, 2016, during clashes with Shia Houthi rebels. (Photo: AFP)

Yemen peace talks are set to resume Monday in Kuwait, which aim at resolving the year-long conflict between the warring parties under UN sponsorship amid a fragile truce and hopes to end a 'staggering' humanitarian crisis in the Arab world's poorest country.

There have already been several failed attempts to defuse the conflict in Yemen between between the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and Abd-Rabbo Mansour Hadi government and allies, which has drawn in regional foes Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The warring parties last sat down to talk in Geneva in December, but six days of negotiations ended with no major breakthrough.

The ceasefire, which was announced on 10 April, calls for a halt to all combat activities and military movements by land, sea and air, across the entirety of Yemeni territory, airspace and borders. The document was signed by both parties.

As UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed indicated, the parties are wrangling over interpretations of five points related to UN Resolution 2216 which Mohammed Ali Marem, director of the office of Yemeni President Hadi, summed up as: the ceasefire, withdrawal and the surrender of weapons, restoration of legitimacy to government, creating the climate for the return of the representatives of the political forces to complete arrangements and preparations for the interim phase.

Hadi's internationally recognised government insists on the rigid application of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 calling for the political process to resume and for the houthi rebels to withdraw from Yemen's cities while surrendering their weapons.

Yet, briefing the Security Council Friday ahead of the talks, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who has conducted months of shuttle diplomacy, said Yemen has "never been so close to peace", AFP reported.

Houthi militias, backed by forces loyal to former president Ali Abdallah Saleh, have been struggling for control against pro-Hadi loyalist forces since last March.

A Saudi-led military coalition, which includes Egypt and other Arab states, was launched in the same month with the purpose of “restoring legitimacy” in Yemen as to halt the advancement of the Iranian-backed Houthis and their allies in Yemen and to restore Hadi.

The civil war in Yemen marked its first year last March, which marks the beginning of the Saudi-led “Operation Storm of Resolve” a year ago.

Yemen was already the Arab world's poorest country before the conflict escalated but now the humanitarian situation is "staggering", according to the UN.

More than 6,300 people have been killed in Yemen since March last year -- around half of them civilians -- and 82 percent of the population need aid, UN report says.

On top of the large civilian death toll, Jamie McGoldrick, UN resident humanitarian affairs coordinator for Yemen, told a press conference in Muscat earlier this month that 14 million Yemenis needed essential and urgent relief and assistance due to the current conflict, and that humanitarian relief efforts in Yemen would require $1.8 billion in 2016, AFP reported. 

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