Cairo: A team from Yemen’s Al Houthis on Thursday failed to leave for UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva, although an Arab coalition fighting them gave the go-ahead for their plane to depart.
The Geneva consultations, aimed at restarting Yemen’s long-stalled peace process, had been originally scheduled to start on Thursday. But they were postponed until Friday after a delegation from the Iran-aligned militia did not show up in Geneva.
The Saudi-led coalition said it had permitted an Al Houthi plane to take off from the militia-held capital Sana’a, but Al Houthis reacted “recalcitrantly”.
Al Houthi leaders have demanded their families be flown to Oman as a condition for participating in the indirect Geneva talks, Al Arabiya reported.
The broadcaster quoted Yemeni sources, who accused the militants of citing “flimsy pretexts” in order to derail the new round of talks.
An Al Houthi official said his group would not go to Geneva unless its demands are met, AFP reported.
Hameed Assem, a member of the militia delegation, said the UN had not met three conditions that had been previously agreed.
The conditions include the transport of wounded rebels to Oman, the repatriation of rebels who have already received treatment there and a guarantee that the Al Houthi delegation will be allowed to return to Sana’a after the talks.
The Geneva consultations, the fourth since Yemen’s war started nearly four years ago, cap a flurry of meetings that UN envoy Martin Griffiths recently held with Yemen’s warring sides.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government has already sent its delegation to Geneva.
The talks are expected to focus on humanitarian issues including the release of prisoners held by both sides and unrestricted aid deliveries.
The prospective steps are designed to build confidence between the warring sides. However, observers do not expect a breakthrough due to intransigence shown by Al Houthis in previous rounds held in Switzerland and Kuwait.
In recent months, Al Houthis have intensified firing missiles into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.
Saudi air defences late on Wednesday intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired by Al Houthis towards the direction of the southern region of Najran.
The shrapnel injured 37 people, according to Al Arabiya.
Meanwhile, the coalition said it had asked its legal team to investigate possible collateral damage in an operation launched by its jets last month near Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeida.
Spokesman for the alliance Colonel Turki Al Maliki said that documents, related to the August 25 operation in the district of Al Durhaimi, have been sent to the Accidents-Assessment team to investigate and announce findings. The operation targeted Al Houthi militiamen in the area, the official said
Last week, the coalition regretted “mistakes” in a deadly air strike launched earlier in August in Saada, the militants’ stronghold near the Saudi border.