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Yemen government suspends participation in peace talks

AFP , Tuesday 17 May 2016
Charbel Raji (4-L), spokesman for the UN, (R-L) leaders of the Yemeni society Jamila Ali Mohammed Rajaa, Balqes Ahmed Mansoor Aboosbua, Rasha Rashid Ahmed Jarhum, attend a press conference at Kuwait's information ministry in Kuwait City on May 8, 2016. (AFP PHOTO)

Yemen's government suspended its participation in talks with Iran-backed rebels Tuesday for the second time this month, the foreign minister said, in a new setback to the UN-backed peace process.

Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi said on Twitter that the Houthi Shia militia which controls the capital had "torpedoed the talks completely," by backtracking on their commitments after a month of negotiations.

"I have asked the UN envoy not to allow the rebels to waste any more time... and to make them comply with the reference issues before we resume the talks," said Mikhlafi, who heads the government delegation.

A statement by the government delegation said it would continue to boycott the talks until the rebels comply with the agreed references.

It also urged the international community to apply pressure on the rebels to implement international resolutions to end the war and held them responsible for obstructing the peace negotiations.

The statement blamed the Houthis of destroying the country's economy, refusing to respect the ceasefire and to implement UN Security Council resolutions.

In particular the government wants the Huthis to comply with a UN Security Council resolution ordering them to pull out of territory they occupied in a 2014 offensive and surrender heavy arms they captured.

Sources close to the government and rebel delegations confirmed to AFP that a session scheduled to take place on Tuesday morning was cancelled after the government delegation withdrew.

The pullout comes two days after UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he was optimistic about achieving a peaceful settlement in the war-torn country.

The two delegations were on the verge of finalising a deal to release half of the detainees and prisoners before the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in early June.

The United Nations estimates that more than 6,400 people have been killed and 2.8 million displaced in Yemen since March last year.

A major stumbling block at the talks in Kuwait City remains the form of government that would control Yemen in a transitional period.

The rebels want to share power with President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi while his delegation insists he is the legitimate UN-backed head of state.

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