Peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties have been delayed from their scheduled start on Monday, said a United Nations special envoy for the country.
"We are working to overcome the latest challenges and ask the delegations to show good faith" and participate in the U.N.-brokered talks, diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said after representatives of the Shi'ite rebels known as Houthis failed to arrive. "… The next few hours are crucial. We call on the parties to take their responsibilities seriously and agree on comprehensive solutions."
Yemeni government officials accused the Houthis of intentionally delaying the peace process. It’s aimed at ending an 18-month conflict that has killed more than 6,000 people and created a humanitarian crisis.
Earlier,Yemen Foreign Minister Abdel Malek told the state news agency, Saba, that "we are ready for a political transition which excludes no one... and we will give everything we can to alleviate the suffering."
The Houthis also had hinted at reconciliation, with spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam using Kuwaiti media to call for "a consensus authority during a definite transitional phase to decide every political dispute."
FILE - Boys look through a hole made by a Saudi-led airstrike on a bridge in Sanaa, Yemen, March 23, 2016.
The U.N. sponsored two rounds of peace talks last year, with December negotiations crumbling amid fierce fighting.
A cease-fire has been in place for a week, though both sides have reported violations.
Last week, Ahmed said the country is at a "critical crossroad," where one path leads to peace and the other to a worsening security and humanitarian situation. He told the U.N. Security Council that success at the peace talks would require "difficult compromises from all sides, as well as determination to reach an agreement."
Yemen's U.N. ambassador, Khaled Alyemany, told reporters the talks could yield concrete results. "If they fail," he warned, "it will be a repetition of the cycle of violence."
The Houthis seized Yemen's capital, Sana'a, in September 2014 and the following March launched an offensive to the south that sent President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi fleeing to Saudi Arabia.The Saudis responded by launching airstrikes with a coalition in defense of Hadi's government.