Yemen’s Hadi: U.N. talks only on rebel withdrawal

Hadi said that his govt will only discuss with rebels in Geneva a U.N. resolution ordering their withdrawal from seized territory

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Yemen’s exiled president reiterated Tuesday that his government will only discuss with rebels at this week’s U.N.-sponsored peace talks a Security Council resolution ordering their withdrawal from seized territory.

Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels, who have for months been fighting President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s supporters, arrived Tuesday in Geneva for the talks, to which Hadi has also sent representatives.

In the Saudi city of Jeddah, the president told an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that “our delegation in Geneva will only discuss the terms of applying (Resolution) 2216.”

The meeting was attended by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, whose predominantly Shiite country is accused of backing the rebels.

A member of the rebel team also placed restrictions on the talks, ruling out dialogue “with those who have no legitimacy,” a reference to the government, and demanded talks with Saudi Arabia.

On March 26, a Saudi-led coalition began bombing the rebels and their allies as Hadi fled to Riyadh.

Late last year the Houthis seized control of Yemen’s capital before advancing on other parts of the country.

In addition to the territorial demands, the April Security Council resolution reaffirmed the legitimacy of Yemen’s government, asked the Houthis to give up seized weapons and imposed an arms embargo and sanctions on them.

It asked all parties, particularly the Houthis, to adhere to measures including the outcome of a previously held “national dialogue” tasked with drawing up a new constitution.

The OIC had summoned the foreign ministers of its 57 member states to “consider the situation in Yemen and ways to ensure the return of security and stability there.”

On Monday, the Houthis' delegation arrived in Geneva on a U.N.-chartered plane to take part in talks aimed at ending the Yemen conflict, Al Arabiya News Channel reported.

Houthi leader Zif al-Shami said earlier the delegation might return to Yemen’s capital Sanaa after Egypt refused to allow it to land at Cairo airport, a charge Cairo denied. U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the plane left Djibouti at 7:10 p.m. local time Monday evening.

Dujarric said there were “aviation issues” beyond the U.N.’s control.

“We’re just glad they’re on their way,” he said.

The Houthis missed a meeting Monday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who was returning to New York.

On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened peace talks in Geneva with a call for a humanitarian ceasefire, saying Yemen was on the verge of a collapse that the Middle East could not withstand.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said on Monday his government could discuss a limited ceasefire, but only if the Iran-backed Houthi militias withdrew from cities, released more than 6,000 prisoners and complied with a U.N. resolution.

Yassin told reporters: “If they start complying with the U.N. resolution, release prisoners they are holding, more than 6,000, including the defense minister and others, if they withdraw from Aden and Taiz and other cities and stop killing innocent people, then you can discuss.”

(With AFP and AP)

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