UN envoy urges concessions to save Yemen peace talks

AFP , Monday 9 May 2016

File Photo: U.N. special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed attends a news conference in Kuwait City, Kuwait April 26, 2016 (Photo: Reuters)

The UN special envoy to Yemen on Monday urged the country's warring parties to make concessions to save peace talks aimed at ending a devastating 13-month war.

The appeal by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed came after face-to-face talks broke off with the government delegation complaining of a lack of progress and the Iran-backed Huthi rebels protesting about air raids by the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

After holding several separate meetings with each delegation, Ould Cheikh Ahmed called on the two sides to "make concessions in order to strike a comprehensive peaceful solution" to end Yemen's deadly conflict.

"The participants in the Kuwait negotiations must reflect the aspirations of the Yemeni people. I am confident that Yemenis want an end to the conflict," he said in a statement.

All direct meetings scheduled for Sunday were called off, but the UN envoy said new talks are scheduled for Monday and appealed for cooperation.

The two delegations also met with Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Sabah and ambassadors of the 18 mostly Western countries backing the talks in a bid to bring the Yemeni foes back to the negotiating table.

Yemen's foreign minister said the talks which began on April 21 made no headway.

"For the sake of peace, we have accepted all proposals submitted to us in order to progress," said Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi, who heads the government delegation.

"But after three weeks, we have nothing in our hands because the other party backed down on its commitments," Mikhlafi wrote on Twitter.

The rebels issued a strong protest to the UN envoy over alleged air raids Sunday by Saudi-led Arab coalition that they said left several people dead, according to a source close to their delegation.

There was no immediate confirmation of the reported air strikes.

The rebels and their allies have demanded the formation of a consensus transitional government before forging ahead with other issues that require them to surrender arms and withdraw from territories they occupied in 2014.

The talks, which come after two failed attempts in June and December last year in Switzerland, are based on UN Security Council resolution which orders the rebels to withdraw and surrender heavy weaponry they had seized.

There has been mounting international pressure to end the Yemen conflict that the United Nations estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year.

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