UN extends Yemen peace talks as blasts kill dozens
The United Nations on Wednesday extended stalled Yemen peace talks taking place in Geneva, with both the exiled government and the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels accusing each other of trying to sabotage the process.
In the Yemeni capital meanwhile, at least 31 people were killed and dozens wounded in five simultaneous bombings claimed by the Islamic State group at Shiite mosques and offices.
The radical Sunni Muslim IS group said the attacks were in “revenge” against Shiite Huthis who have overrun Sanaa, and much of the Sunni majority country.
The bombings took place as peace talks in Geneva stumbled and delegates from both sides told AFP that the talks initially due to wind up on Thursday had been extended until at least Friday.
U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, met the rebel delegation in a swish Geneva hotel in the evening after talks early in the day with the exiled government delegation.
The third day of the high stakes talks, launched by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with an appeal for a badly-needed two-week humanitarian truce, also stumbled over the makeup of the different delegations.
“We discussed the truce but the other side is setting unacceptable conditions,” rebel delegation member Hassan Zeid told AFP. They were demanding a rebel retreat from Aden and Taez, where fighting is continuing.
Huthi rebels and their allies, troops faithful to ousted president Ali Abdallah Saleh, favour a truce but are refusing to withdraw as demanded by the government in exile, which is backed by Saudi Arabia.
“The only positive point so far is that the negotiations are continuing and that no delegation has slammed the door,” said a Western diplomat close to the talks.
The U.N. special envoy has urged the warring sides to bend, stressing the dire situation in Yemen where more than 2,600 people have been killed since March and about 21 million people are in severe need of humanitarian aid.
But the positions of the two warring sides are so far apart that they are not sitting in the same room and the U.N. is holding separate consultations with them.
“In a situation like this, the Yemenis need to talk among themselves, not with the United Nations,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.