Yemeni FM: Peace talks collapsing

AP News
Posted: May 17, 2016 3:29 PM

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The Yemeni foreign minister on Tuesday announced the suspension of peace talks held in Kuwait with Shiite rebels after weeks of no progress, saying the rebels refuse to accept the legitimacy of the country's internationally-recognized president.

Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi said in a televised press conference that the rebels, known as Houthis, are pushing for the formation of a new government that would give them a share of power.

"The talks are a waste of time and only used to amass forces of the militias," he said.

The Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in September 2014, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to eventually escape to Saudi Arabia. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched an extensive air campaign and eventual ground invasion to retake cities under Houthis control in southern Yemen. However the campaign has failed to force them out of the capital and northern region, which is the rebels' stronghold.

Yemen, which is the Arab world's poorest nation, is also on "the verge of the bankruptcy," said al-Mekhlafi, adding that the country's foreign reserves are depleted.

The peace talks are aimed at ending the conflict based on a U.N. Security Council resolution, which states that militias must withdraw from all cities, hand over weapons, and release political detainees.

Al-Mekhlafi accused the Houthis of forcing a new proposal for a power-sharing deal instead of abiding by the resolution. He also said that rebels have been violating the truce announced by the U.N. on April 10. Since it went into effect, the two sides have exchanged accusations of breaching the cease-fire. He accused the rebels of using the talks to buy time in order to rearrange their forces and seize more weapons.

Houthi officials dismissed al-Mekhlafi's accusations.

"Hadi is responsible for the assault on Yemen," said a group spokesman Abdel-Rahman al-Ahnomi. "He has no legitimacy."

Al-Mekhlafi said that the delegates are not leaving Kuwait and urged the international community to play a role getting the talks back on track.