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UN-Mediated Yemen Peace Talks Fail to Take Off

U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths leaves after a news conference on Yemen talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sept. 8, 2018.

Three days of U.N.-mediated consultations aimed at restarting peace negotiations to end Yemen’s civil war have achieved no results because one of the main parties to the talks has failed to show up.

U.N. Special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths is putting a brave face on the failure of the talks by saying that fruitful discussions have begun. This, even though those discussions only took place between him and the Yemeni government delegation.

He expressed disappointment that the rebel Houthi delegation, known officially as Ansarullah, did not show up, but noted it was not unusual for negotiations involving conflict to run into difficulties.

“But, of course, the elephant in the room, we did not manage to get Ansarullah’s delegation, the delegation from Sana’a to come here. And, we were engaged throughout these days in discussions and negotiations and arrangements and options and alternatives to get them here… So, I do not take this as a fundamental blockage in the process,” he said.

Griffiths would not discuss the demands made by the Houthis for them to agree to join the talks in Geneva. However, a senior Houthi official has said his group’s conditions for attending included a guarantee of safe return to Yemen and permission for them to evacuate war-wounded abroad for medical treatment.

Yemen’s minister of foreign affairs, Khaled Al Yamani, criticized the special envoy’s words as too accommodating. He called the excuses made for the Houthi’s absence unjustified.
“This destructive group that does not abide by international law or by its promises to the special envoy is not serious on the path to peace and to implement international resolutions,” Yamani said.

More than 16,000 civilians have been killed or wounded during more than three years of civil war between the Saudi-backed government of Yemen and the Iran-supported Houthi rebels. The devastation caused by the war has prompted the United Nations to call Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Griffiths said he did not know when another round of talks would take place.