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Blow for Yemen peace as Houthi rebels form 'government'

On-going peace talks have attempted to bring peace to war-torn Yemen [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 August, 2016

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Peace talks between Yemen rebels and the government are in grave danger of collapsing, the UN
Yemeni Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdallah Saleh on Saturday have appointed a council to govern areas of the country under its control.

The move has been a crushing blow for prospects of an agreement between warring sides.

The announcement came as the United Nations prepared to suspend peace talks in Kuwait, and the formation of the council will be a further obstacle to peace with the internationally-recognised Yemeni government.

The rebel alliance announced the creation of the council on 28 July, a move denounced by Yemen's internationally recognised government.

'Grave' danger

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said it would damage the talks and represented a "grave breach" of UN Security Council Resolution 2216.

The council includes 10 members, equally divided between Houthi and Saleh loyalists, according to a list published by the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency on Saturday.

They include Salah al-Sammad, head of the Houthis' political wing Ansarullah, and Sadek Abu Ras, deputy head of Saleh's party, the General People's Congress.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed is expected to announce the suspension of the talks on Saturday in Kuwait, in the presence of rebel and government delegations.
The Yemeni government had been ready to accept the UN plan, but its delegation left Kuwait on Monday.

The UN envoy told Kuwaiti TV on Thursday that he hopes to relaunch talks in the future.

The talks began on 21 April, but broke down last month when the rebels rejected a UN peace plan.

They said any settlement must include the formation of a unity government, a proposal which the Aden-based government strongly rejects.

Impossible demands

The Houthis are also pushing for the removal of the internationally-recognised President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

The Yemeni government had been ready to accept the UN plan, but its delegation left Kuwait on Monday until the rebels agree to the proposed accord.

The draft plan called on the rebels to withdraw from territories they had occupied and give up heavy weapons they had seized from the army.

The two sides would also exchange prisoners before the launch of political negotiations.

The plan was presented as the UN's final proposal to resolve a conflict that has left at least 6,400 people dead and displaced 2.8 million.

Yemen has been in chaos since the Houthis entered Sanaa in September 2014.

Neighbouring Saudi Arabia - which says the Houthis are backed by Iran - formed a coalition with some Arab allies and launched a campaign of air strikes in March 2015 to push the rebels back.

Despite heavy bombing and huge civilian casualties, the Houthis still control the capital and much of northern Yemen.

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