Yemen's rebels reverse course, decide to attend peace talks

AP News
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Posted: Apr 20, 2016 6:16 AM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A senior leader of Yemen's Shiite Houthi rebels has said the Iranian-backed movement has reversed course and would participate in U.N.-sponsored talks designed to end the war in the impoverished Arab nation. Houthi representations would leave for Kuwait, the talks' venue, later Wednesday, he said.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, senior Houthi leader Mahdi al-Mashat said the movement has received assurances from Kuwait and neighboring Oman that there will be an end to violations of a weeklong cease-fire in Yemen by airstrikes launched by a Saudi-led coalition.

"We reserve the right to suspend our participation if the promises are not kept," said al-Mashat, who will head the Houth delegation. "The forces of aggression then will have to assume full responsibility for the consequences of their failure to honor their commitments."

The Kuwait talks, which had been scheduled to get underway Monday, are aimed at finding ways to resolve the year-long conflict between Yemen's internationally recognized government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthis and their allies.

A U.N.-brokered cease-fire announced earlier this month has sought to facilitate the negotiations in Kuwait, though it has repeatedly been breached by both sides. Along with Sanaa, the cities of Taiz, Marib and Jouf have seen most of the cease-fire violations. Security officials said Wednesday that coalition warplanes bombed Houthi positions in Taiz and the province of Marib at dawn Wednesday. There were no reports on casualties and damage immediately available.

Yemen's war has killed thousands and displaced 2.4 million people while the Houthis still retain control in much of the country's northern regions — including the capital, Sanaa. The conflict has also fueled secessionist aspirations among the Southerners' for independence, which they had before Yemen was unified in 1990.