Saudi Arabia Hosts Yemen Talks, Houthi Rebels Not Present

Talks on the ongoing civil war in Yemen have begun in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. ABC News and the Associated Press report that close to 400 Yemeni leaders and politicians are attending the conference, where it is hoped a peace could be brokered. Notably, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who currently have control of almost the entire western third of the country, including the former capital Sana’a, are not attending.

Yemen has been in almost constant crisis for several years, with Sana’a falling in September of last year. On March 19, the opposing forces clashed at the airport in Aden, the government’s new capital. Following four suicide bombings in Sana’a the next day, which killed 142 people, the deadliest terrorist attack in Yemen’s history, the conflict intensified.

Saudi Arabia has become the temporary home of Yemen’s President, Abd Hadi, after he fled on March 25 to escape fighting in Aden. On the same day, Saudi Arabia and other Arab League nations started their intervention in Yemen, launching airstrikes in the country.

Speaking at the conference, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN envoy to Yemen, spoke on behalf of Ban-Ki Moon and pleaded for the conference to be peaceful, ABC and AP reported.

“I call on all parties to refrain from any action that disturbs the peace of airports, main areas and the infrastructure of transport.”

Ahmed hoped that the 5-day truce to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid could be indefinitely extended, according to The Middle East Eye.

“I call on all parties to renew their commitment to this truce for five more days at least.” He went on to say that “This humanitarian truce should turn into a permanent ceasefire.”

According to Al Arabiya, Hadi has a different hope for the conference. He is hoping that UN Resolution 2216 will be implemented by the Security Council. The resolution puts sanctions on Al-Houthi as well as the former Yemeni President, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Saleh transferred the presidency to Hadi following the 2011-12 revolution. Representatives of Saleh’s government are also present at the conference.

The civil war in Yemen has been a humanitarian disaster, with the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the nation, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, reporting a heavy death toll, according to Sputnik News. The official said that more than 1600 people have been killed in the war and that close to half a million people have been displaced.

How successful the talks in Saudi Arabia will be without one of the largest Yemeni factions remains unclear.

[Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images]