Ansar Allah delegation grounded in Sanaa as peace talks on hold

SANAA: Yemen’s Ansar Allah fighters, expected at UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva with the government, remained grounded in Sanaa on Friday citing fears they would not be allowed to return home if they left.
Ansar Allah, the group locked in a war with Yemen’s government, has refused to take off from the capital unless the UN meets a list of conditions, which includes securing a safe return from Geneva to Sanaa for its delegation.
The Geneva talks, the first since 2016, had been scheduled to formally open on Thursday but were put on hold, although UN envoy Martin Griffiths has held several meetings in the Swiss city with the government delegation.
Ansar Allah’s Supreme Revolutionary Council said on Friday they were “increasingly suspicious that the coalition intended to insult” the group.
It accused the Saudi-led alliance fighting against them on behalf of the government of planning to strand the Ansar Allah delegation in Djibouti, where their plane was to make a stop en route to Geneva.
Ansar Allah hinted they feared a repeat of 2016, when 108 days of talks in Kuwait broke down and a rebel delegation was stranded in Oman for three months due to an air blockade, the council said in a statement on Telegram.
The Saudi-led military coalition controls the country’s airspace and Sanaa international airport has been largely disused for years.
Ansar Allah has traded accusations of non-cooperation and stalling with Yemen’s government.
But in Geneva on Friday, Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled al Yamani insisted the Ansar Allah delay was evidence of infighting.
“We came to Geneva… ready and willing to delve into talks” on confidence-building, Yamani told UAE’s Sky News. He slammed the Ansar Allah “excuses” for not arriving on time.
Saudi Arabia and its allies have meanwhile said they have already granted the Ansar Allah clearance to fly, accusing them of intransigence.
Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher accused the Ansar Allah of “speaking no language other than force” and “using negotiations to secure more arms”, in a tweet on Thursday.
Griffiths’ office said on Friday he was “still working on getting the Ansar Allah delegation to Geneva.”
In the meantime, the envoy has been holding consultations with the government delegation since Thursday.
“He has been discussing with them confidence-building measures, including the issue of prisoners, humanitarian access, the re-opening of Sanaa airport, in addition to economic issues,” it said in a statement.
Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the Yemen conflict in 2015, triggering what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.