Warring sides of the conflict in Yemen have begun face-to-face negotiations for the first time since an ongoing round of talks started under the auspices of the United Nations in Kuwait.
Charbel Raji, the spokesman for UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, said on Saturday that direct meetings had already started between representatives of Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and those of the resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.
“All delegations are present. Key issues will be addressed,” said Raji of the talks which are being mediated by Ould Cheikh Ahmed in Kuwait City.
The key issues Raji mentioned include the withdrawal of armed groups, a handover of heavy weapons, the resumption of a political transition and the release of prisoners.
The negotiations, which started on April 21, have only seen delegations submitting their own proposals to Ould in separate meetings they have held with the UN envoy.
Houthis have been demanding a complete lifting of a blockade by Saudi Arabia on Yemen, which Riyadh has put into place since it started its campaign against Yemenis in March 2015. Hadi's delegations, which is backed by the regime in Riyadh, says, however, that the Houthis must first implement the terms of a UN resolution and withdraw from the areas they have captured in Yemen.
An official from the Houthis speaking to the Sabanews.net website said a “new phase in the negotiations begins Saturday, which would truly test the positions of the United Nations and international community” in order for a settlement to be reached between the two sides.
The current talks in Kuwait started after a shaky ceasefire came into effect on April 11. That ceasefire agreement seems to be still holding across Yemen although both sides keep reporting violations.
More than 9,500 people have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi campaign began. The airstrikes have been meant to block the advance of Ansarullah and to bring Hadi back to power.