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Yemen's last chance for peace as two-week deadline looms

The government delegation resumed the talks despite threatening to boycott [AFP]

Date of publication: 17 July, 2016

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Yemen's warring parties began their last two-weeks of negotiations on Friday, with the UN Yemen envoy warning it's the country's last chance for peace after two months of stagnant talks.
The UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait resumed after a two week break on Friday despite hesitance and threats to boycott negotiations from the government delegation

This comes as the UN-special envoy for Yemen continued his visit to Yemen on Saturday where he met with leadership ranks from the warring factions.

Ismail Ould Cheikh urged Houthi and government officials to make "decisions that will prove your true intentions," noting the talks would only last for a further two weeks and may be Yemen's "last chance to resolve the conflict."

"It's time for decisive decisions that will prove your true intentions and national responsibilities to Yemenis," he told a meeting of the two delegations late Saturday.

Resumed discussions would focus on strengthening a fragile ceasefire that was implemented a week before the negotiations started in April.

So far both sides have violated the ceasefire on multiple occasions with Houthi rebels launching clashes across the country while the government's Saudi ally repeatedly bombed targets.

They would also deal with "forming the military committees that will supervise the withdrawal and handover of weapons... and opening safe passages for humanitarian aid," he said.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that over the past two weeks he had held intensive talks in Sanaa, Riyadh and Muscat and met with many dignitaries who declared their support for a final settlement.

"I hope that you will seize this opportunity which could be the last to win the trust of Yemeni people," the UN envoy added.

Earlier on Saturday, Yemen Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi – who heads the government delegation in Kuwait – said the they had obtained a "written response to our demands sufficient for the political leadership to decide (on) sending the delegation back to Kuwait".

A well-defined timetable has been agreed that is limited to "withdrawal, handover of arms, return of state institutions, release of prisoners and lifting siege on cities" by Houthi rebels and their allies, Mikhlafi said.

The deal was struck after two days of talks with Ould Cheikh Ahmed who travelled to meet President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi in Riyadh before landing in Sanaa to meet with the Houthis.

The talks' two-week duration will not be extended and no other issues will be debated, he warned.

On Friday, the Houthi delegation and representatives of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh's General People's Congress party returned to Kuwait.

More than two months of negotiations between President Hadi's Saudi-backed government and the rebels have failed to make any headway.

The government is calling for implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 which requires the rebels and their allies to withdraw from areas they have occupied since 2014, including the capital Sanaa, and hand over heavy weapons.

The negotiations have remained stagnant despite more than two months of going back and forth as both sides refuse to look past "fundamental differences".

The United Nations' Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has urged both sides to make concessions to end the conflict, which has cost more than 6,400 lives since March 2015 and displaced 2.8 million people.

In his attempt to get the sides to agree, Cheikh Ahmed has put forward a peace roadmap that would see the formation of a unity government and the withdrawal and disarmament of the rebels.

But Hadi threatened to boycott the talks earlier this week, should the Houthis be involved in any unity government as part of the UN's roadmap to peace.

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