Rebel delegation leaves Yemen for Geneva talks

AFP , Sunday 14 Jun 2015

Yemen Crisis
A man searches for survivors under the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi airstrikes in the old city of Sanaa, Yemen, Friday, June 12, 2015 (Photo: AP)

A delegation of Yemeni rebels left the capital Sanaa for Geneva on Sunday to attend repeatedly delayed peace talks, an aviation official and a source close to them told AFP.

The delegation of five rebel representatives, including two Shia Houthis and two members of ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh's party, departed aboard a UN plane, the sources said.

Hassan Zaid, the head of Shia opposition party Al-Haq, was also among the delegation, the source close to the Houthis said.

Two other Houthi representatives were also heading to Geneva from neighbouring Oman, the source added.

The talks had been scheduled to start on Sunday but the United Nations announced they would go ahead in Geneva on Monday.

Representatives of the exiled and internationally-recognised government of President Abd-Rabbou Mansour Hadi flew to Geneva on Saturday.

But the rebel delegation had been delaying its departure over differences with the UN on formalities linked to the talks, the sources said.

The rebels had been demanding a statement published on UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed's Facebook page on Sunday be treated as an official UN statement.

The statement names the various political parties taking part in the talks without classifying them as a legitimate government and rebels -- a formulation adopted by the government that referred again Sunday to the Houthis and their allies as "coup" forces.

The rebel representatives had already refused to board another UN plane from Sanaa to Geneva on Saturday because it was scheduled to stop in Jizan in Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a coalition bombing them across Yemen.

The rebels, allied with troops loyal to Saleh, overran Sanaa in September and have since taken control of large parts of the country and forcing Hadi and his government into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Monday's "preliminary inclusive consultations" in Geneva would bring together representatives of the exiled government, the Iran-backed Houthis, Saleh's General Peoples' Congress and other opposition groups, according to the UN envoy.

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