Houthi no-show leaves Geneva talks in doubt

Houthi militia refused Thursday to join talks scheduled to take place in Geneva until their conditions are met. (AFP)
Updated 07 September 2018

Houthi no-show leaves Geneva talks in doubt

  • Houthi delegation refuses to leave Sanaa, first blaming a lack of transport and then claiming the UN had not met their conditions
  • Coalition supporting the Yemeni government says the delay shows the Houthis are not serious about the Geneva talks

JEDDAH: Houthi militia have been accused of setting out to thwart United Nations-sponsored peace talks on Yemen following the failure of a rebel delegation to appear at the Geneva negotiations.

Discussions aimed at ending the three-year conflict were expected to begin on Thursday, but the Houthi team’s no-show left the talks in doubt, sparking frustration among negotiators.

The Houthi delegation failed to arrive following a series of last-minute demands and a claim that it lacked the necessary flight authorization to leave Sanaa in Yemen.

However, high-level anonymous sources in the Yemeni Civil Aviation and Meteorology Authority later revealed a copy of a flight permit showing the Houthi delegation had permission to take off from Sanaa airport bound for Geneva.
The copy of the permit was obtained by the Yemeni online newspaper Al-Mashhad Al-Yemeni.
According to the aviation authority sources, the Houthi delegation offered “vague and flimsy excuses” aimed at disrupting the UN-sponsored consultations.
Earlier the delegation demanded that their flight be allowed to carry wounded Iranian and Hezbollah fighters to Oman for treatment before resuming the journey to Geneva.

The Houthis’ conditions were made after talks with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon to thwart the peace negotiations, the sources said.

The sources pointed out that the Yemeni government had not put any conditions on the negotiations, such as the release of political prisoners and individuals under house arrest, including the brother of Mahmoud Al-Sobaihi, the Yemeni defense minister.

Col. Turki Al-Maliki, spokesman for the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, which includes Saudi Arabia, said the Houthis are not serious about the Geneva talks.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani (purple jacket) with the government delegation to Geneva. (Supplied) 

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani said that the government will not wait “indefinitely” for the Houthis to attend the talks.

Sources in Geneva said the UN envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, had met with the Yemeni government delegation to discuss the Houthi no-show, and had been told that talks could not begin until the militia delegation arrived.

Al-Yamani said that divisions within the Houthi militia were hampering peace talks.

“The Houthi representatives’ ridiculous excuses are an attempt to cover up a fundamental issue: The rebel militia is divided over who should represent them in Geneva,” he said.

“There are hawks who, on instructions from Iran, refuse to engage in any peace process. Iran wants to use the Houthi movement as a claw to destabilize and insecure Yemen.”

The Yemeni foreign minister denied reports that the government had given the Houthi delegation an ultimatum.

“We are not setting any deadlines. We came to Geneva at the invitation of UN ... to participate in negotiations to strengthen confidence-building measures,” he said.

A copy of the flight permit was obtained by the Yemeni online newspaper Al-Mashhad Al-Yemeni

Israel strikes Hamas post after gunfire at troops

Updated 27 sec ago

Israel strikes Hamas post after gunfire at troops

  • An informal truce between Hamas and Israel has brought relative calm to the border in recent weeks
  • Hamas is labelled a terrorist organization by the US and the EU, and banks are hesitant to make the transfer

GAZA CITY, Palestinian territories: An Israeli tank shelled a Hamas site in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday after gunfire at soldiers near the border fence, the army said.
There were no reports of injuries in either incident. Hamas said two of its military wing’s observation posts had been hit east of Beit Hanoun.
An informal truce between Hamas and Israel has brought relative calm to the border in recent weeks.
But there have been warnings of another escalation since Israel reportedly held up the latest cash transfer from Gulf state Qatar to Gaza, set to take place under the truce.
The payments are controversial in Israel, where they have sparked opposition from right-wing activists and politicians.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is campaigning for re-election in April 9 polls.
Qatar’s ambassador to Gaza said Monday that the $15 million (13 million euros) in cash, to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants in the enclave, is expected to be delivered via Israel this week.
Israel’s government has not commented. Its permission is required since the cash must be delivered via Israeli territory.
Hamas is labelled a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, and banks are hesitant to make the transfer.
The payment would be the third of six planned tranches, totalling $90 million, in connection with the truce.
Israel has also allowed deliveries of Qatari-financed fuel to the blockaded enclave to help ease a severe electricity shortage.
Mass protests and clashes erupted on the Gaza-Israel border in March last year.
The weekly protests have been calling for Palestinian refugees in Gaza to be able to return to their former homes now inside Israel.
Israel accuses Hamas of using the protests as cover to carry out violence.
At least 243 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since March, the majority during protests and clashes. Others have died in airstrikes or shelling.
Two Israeli soldiers have been killed over the same period, one by a Palestinian sniper and another during a botched special forces operation inside Gaza.
Israel and Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip, have fought three wars since 2008.