Houthis name delegates to U.N.-brokered talks

U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has said he was certain the Iran-backed faction would show up for the talks

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Yemen’s Houthi militia has submitted names of their negotiating team to the United Nations for next week’s peace talks in Switzerland, their spokesman said Friday.

Reports had circulated that Houthi militia leaders had been dragging their feet and refusing to name their delegates in an apparent bid to further stall dialogue.

But U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has said he was certain the Iran-backed faction would show up for the talks to be held at an undisclosed location in Switzerland starting Tuesday.

The Houthis and their allies have been locked in months of deadly battles with supporters of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally-recognised government.

They have also been under fire from a Saudi-led coalition since March.

Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman for the Huthis’ Ansarullah party, said in a statement carried by their sabanews.net website that the rebels have handed over a list of their delegation to Switzerland to the United Nations, which is brokering the talks.

“We hope the United Nations has understood the remarks presented to its Yemen envoy” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed during discussions in Oman on the draft framework of talks “in order to help hold a serious and responsible dialogue,” said Abdulsalam.

Abdulsalam will be leading the seven-member Houthi delegation to Switzerland which will also include a “military consultant” identified as Brigadier General Abdullah Yehya Qassem, according to a source from the Houthi television channel Almasirah.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed had told reporters that in addition to the Houthis, participants will include representatives of Hadi’s government and officials from the General People's Congress headed by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Talks are to focus on four main areas, including the terms for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of armed groups from the areas under their control, a reference mainly to the Houthis.

Renegade troops loyal to Saleh have been fighting alongside the Houthis, who took control of the capital Sanaa in September 2014 and swept south.

The United Nations, citing data compiled from health facilities, says more than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen, about half of them civilians, and more than 27,000 wounded since March when fighting intensified.

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