London and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—Peace talks between Yemen’s internationally recognized government and the Houthi movement currently in control of large parts of the country will begin in Geneva on June 14, the UN confirmed on Saturday.
The talks were originally scheduled for May 28, but the government withdrew due to the Houthis refusing to comply with the outcomes of a UN Security Council resolution adopted in April.
Resolution 2216 stipulates the Shi’ite group withdraw from Sana’a and other areas under their control and cease all hostile action against civilians. The government has set compliance with the resolution by the Houthis as a precondition for attending the meetings.
This comes after UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed last week held back-to-back meetings with the Houthis and Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi in Sana’a and Riyadh, respectively.
He informed Hadi during their meetings he had obtained promises from the Iran-backed Houthis that they will comply with the UN resolution.
Meanwhile, UN sources—who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media—told Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone that among the delegation the government will send to will be officials the Houthi movement has held hostage since launching their coup in February.
They include Defense Minister Gen. Mahmoud Al-Subaihi, whom the group placed under house arrest in February.
He managed to escape in early March, fleeing to Aden, but was captured by Houthi militias again later in the month as they launched an assault on the southern port city.
Following their coup in February, the group also placed President Hadi and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah under house arrest. Both later escaped to Aden and then to the Saudi capital Riyadh.
The sources said it would be necessary for the Houthis to release Subaihi and the three other hostages which the government has selected to attend the meetings, in order to show their goodwill and seriousness to reach a conclusion to the crisis that has gripped the country since September of 2014.
Back then the Houthis’ militias occupied the capital Sana’a amid a complete security vacuum. They took over government, military and media buildings and facilities and then began to spread across the country.
Following his escape to Riyadh, President Hadi requested Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies intervene with military force in the country in order to restore political legitimacy.
The Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis began on March 26 and, despite an officially declared willingness by the Arab coalition to end the campaign, has continued since then due to repeated acts of aggression by the Houthis, especially against the civilian population.
On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s Defense Ministry announced it had shot down a Scud missile launched by the Houthi militias targeting the southwestern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait close to the Yemeni border—the first time the rebels have fired a Scud into Saudi Arabia since the conflict began, despite many attacks taking place on the border between them and Saudi border guards.
Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of backing the Shi’ite Houthis, supplying them with weapons and ammunition via planes landing from Iran at Sana’a airport. Following the coup, the Houthis and Tehran signed an agreement to increase two-way commercial flights between both capitals, with reports suggesting the planes have been used to supply weapons and personnel—including those with technical expertise—to the Houthis.