United Nations-mediated peace talks on Yemen appeared to be in jeopardy on Thursday with no sign in Geneva of the delegation from the Houthi movement on the first day.
Martin Griffiths, the U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, said in a statement that he had discussed confidence-building measures with Yemen's foreign minister Khaled al-Yamani. He later returned to the same Geneva hotel ahead of a key government meeting with Arab ambassadors.
But with the Houthi delegation yet to arrive, Griffiths called for the Iranian-allied group to attend the talks, aimed at relaunching peace negotiations after nearly three years.
Griffiths conceded there were "challenges" in bringing the parties together in the Swiss city, but still wanted to see the delegation from the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa arrive.
The world body wants the Yemeni government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Muslim Arab states, and the Houthi movement to work towards a deal to end the war, remove foreign forces from Yemeni territory, and establish a national unity government.
Griffiths thanked the government for its "positive engagement" and acknowledged the coalition's efforts to help convene the consultations.
An inclusive political solution was required to end the conflict in Yemen, where people live in dire humanitarian, economic and security conditions, he said.
The Houthi movement's al-Masirah TV reported on Wednesday that the coalition had prevented the Houthi delegation from flying from Sanaa to Geneva. The Houthis have accused the U.N. of not keeping a promise to transport wounded on the flight.
On Thursday, a source from Sanaa airport said there was no plane there yet for the Houthi delegation.
Hamza al-Kamali, Yemeni deputy minister for youth, told reporters in Geneva on Thursday that the flight clearance had been given three days ago. The government delegation would announce its decision on whether to stay in the next 24 hours, he said: "Tomorrow at noon you will hear something from us officially."
The government supported efforts to achieve peace through implementing U.N. Security Council resolution 2216, he said, referring to the 2015 call by world powers for a ceasefire and withdrawal of forces.
"But Houthis prove that they don’t want peace, they don’t believe in peace. We have this scheduled meeting since two months ago, we scheduled to make it on 6th of September, today we are alone here.”
Saudi Arabia's air defence forces intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired by Yemen's Houthis in the southern city of Najran, wounding 26 people with shrapnel, Saudi civil defence said on Wednesday.