AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council has formed an 11-member committee to engage in talks with the Iran-backed Houthis to end the war, but there are no signs that the militia will accept any attempt to begin peace negotiations, including through the UN.
A government official told Arab News that the committee has veteran negotiators who had previously met with the Houthis in Kuwait, Geneva and other cities, including representatives of women groups and the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council.
The committee is led by incumbent Foreign Minister Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak, and its members include Abdul Malik Al-Mekhlafi, a former foreign minister and the former head of the government’s team that held peace talks with the Houthis in Kuwait in 2016.
The team also has Nasser Al-Khoubaji, an STC senior member; Ali Al-Ashal, a parliamentarian and leading figure in the Islah Party; and Rasha Jarhum, a member of the Consultations and Reconciliation Commission.
International peace efforts, led by UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg, suffered a major blow earlier this month when the Houthis refused to renew the truce brokered by the world body that went into effect on April 2 and was extended twice.
The Houthis have demanded that the Yemeni government pay all public employees in areas under their control. They have also rejected the UN envoy’s proposal that they pay civilian public employees in their areas with revenue from fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port during the truce, with the government covering any shortfall.
The Houthis have further refused to partly break the siege of Taiz by opening at least one major route and several smaller roads heading in and out of the city.
Despite the parties’ failure to renew the truce, the Yemeni government has let commercial planes depart from Houthi-held Sanaa and lately permitted more fuel shipments to arrive at Hodeidah port.
To put pressure on the Yemeni government to comply with their demands, the Houthis asked maritime businesses that move oil from government-controlled ports to obtain authorization from them or face being targeted.
Meanwhile, Rosie Dyas, spokesperson of the British government in the MENA region, has demanded the Houthis cooperate with the UN envoy’s efforts to renew the truce and bring peace to Yemen.
“The moment has come for Houthi leaders to engage constructively with the UN. We encourage all parties to avoid further escalation because this is the biggest possibility for peace since the beginning of the conflict, and it is what the Yemeni people deserve,” she tweeted.
Yemen’s war began in September 2014, when the Houthis took power and imprisoned former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi in Sanaa.
The Houthis’ move sparked brutal conflicts with government forces and resistance fighters, killing thousands and displacing millions.