Yemeni warring parties ended their evening session on Saturday with reports of differences over maintaining of the ceasefire. Representatives from the Yemeni government, the General People’s Congress and Ansarullah movement met for more than five hours at Bayan Palace, and agreed to name a person from each party to report any violation of the truce, which entered force on April 10. UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmad said at a news conference yesterday that there was a strong international backing for the enforcement of the ceasefire in Yemen.
The negotiations, which began Thursday, are mainly meant to persuade all Yemeni rivals to stick to UN Security Council Resolution 2216, and to arrive at a framework for an organized peaceful process in Yemen as per the GCC Initiative and the outcomes of the Yemeni National Dialogue. Rebel delegation spokesman Mohamed Abdulsalam said the priority was to end the fighting that has killed more than 6,800 people and driven 2.8 million from their homes since March last year.
“Stopping the war and all forms of military action is the priority of the Yemeni people and the priority of their representatives,” he said on Facebook. Third city Taez, where forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi have been under rebel siege for months, has been a particular source of friction.
Three rebels and two loyalists were killed on Saturday in fierce fighting in Kirsh, a town on the main highway to Taez from the southern port of Aden where Hadi’s government is based, military sources said. The government delegation is to press for the swift implementation of a package of confidence-building measures agreed at the last — abortive — round of peace talks in Switzerland in December. They include the release of prisoners and the lifting of blockades and other obstacles to the the delivery of relief supplies.
The warring sides already carried out two prisoner exchanges last month. The hard-won negotiations in Kuwait opened on Thursday evening following the delayed arrival of representatives of the Shiite Huthi rebels and allied forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Qatar welcomed on Saturday the UNbrokered peace talks held between the Yemeni warring parties in Kuwait. Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that peace talks between the Yemeni parties represents a positive step towards reaching an agreement that ends the crisis and restores security and stability to the Republic of Yemen. The Ministry urged all Yemeni parties to effectively take part in the talks in order to kick-start a political process that fulfills the aspirations of the brotherly Yemeni people.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry hailed the State of Kuwait for creating the right atmosphere for holding the peace talks, and praised the efforts exerted by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmed in this regard. UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen Ismael Ould Cheikh Ahmad lauded as positive and encouraging the first round of the direct intra-Yemeni peace talks that ended a second day in Kuwait on Friday. “The tone and atmosphere of the talks send an upbeat message that the road to peace in Yemen is very near now,” the UN mediator said at a press conference. The UN-sponsored talks gathered representatives of the Yemeni government, the General People’s Congress and Ansarullah movement. The negotiators discussed the implementation of UN Security Council resolution No. 2216, the efforts to augment the truce agreement a peaceful process in Yemen based on the GCC Initiative and the outcome of the Yemeni National Dialogue.
Cheikh Ahmad called on all parties to offer reciprocal concessions, put aside their differences and put the country’s interests above anything else. He said that Yemen is going through a “critical phase,” appealing to all Yemenis to take into consideration the deterioration of humanitarian situation from which the country is suffering. He added that “we are closer than ever to peace,” affirming that achieving security and stability in Yemen is a UN priority. He stressed that the UN will intensify its efforts in order to achieve peace in that Arab country. “The parties will continue their talks in Kuwait until reaching a tangible solution to the country’s crisis,” he affirmed.
In a reply to a question on the approval of the delegations of Ansarullah and the General People’s Congress on the fi ve items of agenda of negotiations, he said: “we are committed, from the beginning, that the talks are held in line with the UN Security Council resolution 2216.” “There is a program of action, a roadmap and the agenda which are similar to these items to reach a comprehensive and enduring peaceful solution to the crisis,” he noted.
Regarding the ceasefire, he noted that it went into effect on April 10 and “we work on consolidating it,” despite difficulties during wars. In spite of challenges on ground, the parties commitment level to the ceasefire up to 80 percent. He said there was a decline in violence in Yemen and this reassures everyone, especially Yemenis, adding that “there are significant gaps in the ceasefire that would be addressed.” The envoy pointed out that the most prominent challenge facing them is how to “activate the truce committees” so as to halt hostilities completely. He said he proposed deployment of local observers in Yemen to follow up consolidating the ceasefire on ground, urging all parties to promote tolerance for achieving peace.
Cheikh Ahmad thanked the State of Kuwait, His Highness the Amir, the government and people for their efforts exerted to host the negotiations. He also expressed his gratitude to the international community for the limitless support and effective follow-up of the Yemen’s dossier, referring to the role of media in covering what is happening in Yemen during this “sensitive phase.” This first round of talks opened yesterday in the presence of Kuwaiti Acting Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah. Meanwhile, Yemeni forces backed by air power from the Saudi-led Arab coalition launched an operation on Saturday to drive al-Qaeda fighters out of a southern provincial capital, military officials said.
Forces loyal to Hadi in Abyan province advanced towards Zinjibar and the neighbouring town of Jaar, the sources said. Soldiers clashed with militants at Al- Kud, five kilometres (three miles) south of Zinjibar, while coalition Apache helicopters targeted extremist positions in the area, the officials said.