Yemen government demands rebel withdrawal before any transition

The Yemeni government on Thursday insisted that Houthi rebels withdraw from all territory seized since 2014 and hand back control of state institutions ahead of any political settlement.

“There can be no talk of any political arrangements before the militias completely withdraw and hand over their weapons, and state institutions and agencies are restored to the legitimate government,” the government delegation to peace talks in Kuwait said.

“Any political partnership in the future must be between political parties and groups that have no militias.”

The rebel delegation said on Wednesday that it would not sign up to any deal on military and security issues until there was agreement on a consensus president and a national unity government to oversee the transition.

A peace road map put forward this week by the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, proposes the formation of a unity government in tandem with the withdrawal and disarmament of the rebels.

The government delegation said “nothing has been agreed” in two months of negotiations in Kuwait.

The talks aim to end an insurrection against the government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi that began when the Iran-backed rebels and their allies overran the capital Sanaa in September 2014.

A rebel offensive on Yemen’s second city Aden in March last year prompted a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the government.

More than 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting since then, and there has been growing international pressure for an end to the conflict.

Meanwhile, residents of a village in central Yemen said Houthi fighters shot dead seven farmers on Thursday while searching for the leader of a pro-government militia.

Villagers from Nadara in Ibb province said the Houthis could not find the militia commander but blew up his house and killed seven men working in the fields.

* Agence France-Presse and Reuters


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