UN ex­tends Ye­men peace talks as blasts kill dozens

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY ACIL TAB­BARA AND NINA LAR­SON

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.

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