Gulf states insist on Saudi venue for Yemen talks

The GCC insisted that talks on ending Yemen’s conflict be brokered by the regional body and held in Riyadh

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The Gulf Cooperation Council insisted Thursday that talks on ending Yemen’s conflict be brokered by the regional body and held in Riyadh rather than a neutral venue as sought by Iran.

Tehran has called for the U.N. talks between Yemen’s political factions to be held somewhere other than in any of the countries taking part in a Saudi-led military campaign against Shiite militia.

The GCC groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

All but one of them -- Oman -- are involved in the campaign launched on March 26 against the Houthi militia, who are backed by Shiite Iran.

In a statement after they met Thursday, the Gulf bloc’s foreign ministers affirmed their “support for intensive efforts by the legitimate Yemeni government to hold a conference under the umbrella of the GCC secretariat in Riyadh”.

The conference would be attended by “all Yemeni parties and components supporting legitimacy as well as Yemen’s security and stability,” said GCC secretary general Abdullatif al-Zayani.

The GCC also welcomed the appointment of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as the U.N. special envoy to Yemen, replacing Jamal Benomar who resigned after losing the support of Gulf countries for his mediation efforts.

It voiced support for Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s efforts in implementing a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing an arms embargo and sanctions on the Yemeni rebels, and demanding they withdraw their forces.

The United Nations is working to re-launch peace talks but has run into hurdles over the venue for meetings.

Saudi Arabia has insisted the talks be held in Riyadh.

The coalition launched air strikes to push back the advance of the Houthis and their allies and restore the authority of President Abedrabbu Mansour Hadi, who has sought refuge with members of his government in Riyadh.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Iran to help put political talks in Yemen back on track.

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