Yemen talks falter as Ansar Allah stays away

GENEVA: Long awaited UN-backed talks between Yemen’s warring parties sputtered out on Saturday before ever truly starting, after the Ansar Allah group refused to travel to Geneva and fresh fighting broke out on the ground.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths said he had held “fruitful consultations” with the delegation representing the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, but acknowledged he had been unable to convince the Ansar Allah delegation to even show up for the talks.
“We didn’t manage to get… the delegation from Sanaa to come here,” he told reporters.
“We just didn’t make it,” he said, insisting though that efforts would continue to bring the parties together.
The talks, meant to be the first meeting between Yemen’s warring sides in two years, had been scheduled to formally open on Thursday, but the absence of the Ansar Allah group left Griffiths scrambling to try to save them.
The Ansar Allah team refused to take off from Sanaa unless the UN met a list of conditions, which included securing a safe return from Geneva to Sanaa for their delegation.
They accused the Saudi-led alliance backing the Hadi government of planning to strand their delegation in Djibouti, where their plane was to make a stop en route to Geneva.
Complicating things further, fighting flared again on the ground on Friday with government forces attempting to close in on the Ansar Allah-held Red Sea port of Hodeida, which had been expected to be one of the main topics of discussion in Geneva. Head of the Yemeni government delegation, Foreign Minister Khaled Yamani, charged on Saturday that Ansar Allah fighters were “trying to sabotage” the negotiations, and slammed them for being “totally irresponsible”.
“I believe that their absence from Geneva is part of their panic over losing their grip on areas under their control,” he told reporters.
He also harshly criticised Griffiths for “appeasing” the Ansar Allah by refusing to lay blame for the failure of the talks squarely on their shoulders.
When asked at Saturday’s press conference who was to blame for the stillborn negotiations, Griffiths had insisted that “it’s not my job to find fault. It’s my job to find agreement”.
This enraged Yamani, who said the UN envoy in private conversations had “expressed his dissatisfaction with (the) unjustified position” of the Ansar Allah not to come to Geneva.
“I believe that the (public) words of the Special Envoy… were unfortunately appeasing the coup plotters and giving them excuse,” he said, urging the UN to be “firmer”. — AFP