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

Turkish police arrest ruling party member, eight others after opposition chief attack

Updated 22 April 2019

Turkish police arrest ruling party member, eight others after opposition chief attack

  • Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted on Sunday as he attended a funeral in Ankara
  • A video of the attack showed the CHP leader being mobbed and punched

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Monday arrested nine people, including a member of the ruling AKP party, after a mob attack on opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu that sparked widespread criticism.
Kilicdaroglu, 70, of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was assaulted on Sunday in a crowd as he attended a funeral in Ankara for a soldier killed fighting Kurdish militants in the southeast.
The attack came days after the opposition CHP won Ankara and Istanbul from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP in March 31 local elections, seen as a major setback for the ruling party after a decade-and-a-half in power.
A video of Sunday’s attack showed the CHP leader being mobbed and punched, then chanting crowds surrounded a house where he was taken for his protection. The images went viral on social media.
CHP leaders blamed Erdogan’s AKP for provoking the attack and demanded those detained be held accountable. They called for the interior minister to resign over the incident.
“This is not an ordinary attack, this is not an ordinary provocation. This is planned,” CHP Istanbul chief Canan Kaftancioglu told several thousands of supporters at a rally from the top of a bus.
The crowds chanted slogans “Shoulder to shoulder against Fascism,” and waved banners reading: “Are you so scared by the CHP’s success?” in reference to the AKP’s loss of Istanbul and Ankara.
During campaigning for the local polls, Erdogan often accused Kilicdaroglu and the CHP of backing the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and showed videos of the opposition leader at his rallies.
Kilicdaroglu was not badly injured in the assault.
The chief suspect in Sunday’s attack, identified only by his initials O.S., was arrested in Sivrihisar in central Anatolia and was being taken to Ankara, private NTV television reported.
The AKP later identified him as Osman Sarigun and said he was a party member who would face expulsion.
“AKP is against any form of violence... There is no room for violence in democratic politics,” AKP spokesman Omer Celik said on Twitter.
Eight other people have also been detained, officials said.
Speaking to AFP, the CHP’s Kaftancioglu welcomed the move to expel the suspect but said the problem was about the polarization of Turkish society.
“The situation will not change with one person’s dismissal unless the mentality encouraging attackers by polarizing society changes,” she said.
Erdogan had presented the local elections as a matter of national survival. He campaigned heavily even though he was not running in the election himself.
For his supporters, Erdogan is the strong leader Turkey needs to deal with its security threats and is a voice for more religiously conservative Turks.
Critics say Erdogan has stoked divisions by branding foes as enemies of the state and has undermined the rule of law with a broad crackdown on dissent.
The AKP has won every election since coming to power 17 years ago, but voters appeared to punish the party in major cities in this ballot as the economy slid into recession after a currency crisis last year.
Electoral authorities have given the CHP candidates their mandates for the Istanbul and Ankara mayor posts, but Erdogan’s AKP is seeking a re-run of the Istanbul vote, citing irregularities.
The CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu won the Istanbul race by a very tight margin after two weeks of recounts.
The CHP held Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu responsible for “provocation” after he said last year he had ordered governors not to allow CHP members to join soldiers’ funerals.
Soylu ruled out any “outside provocation” in the incident, and said the main culprit was a relative of the dead soldier.