The head of a Houthi-backed ruling council pledged readiness on Monday to resume negotiations on ending Yemen’s war but reserved the right to resist attacks by a Saudi-backed exiled government seeking to unseat it.
U.N.-sponsored talks to try to end 18 months of fighting collapsed in failure this month and the Houthi movement and allied forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh resumed shelling into neighboring Saudi Arabia.
The talks foundered after the Houthis and Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) announced the formation of the 10-member governing council on Aug 6., ignoring a warning by U.N. Yemen envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed that such a move would violate U.N. Security Council resolutions on how to solve the conflict.
Speaking to Reuters in Beijing, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said the ball was in the Houthis’ court as to whether peace talks resumed.
“What is certain, not questionable, certain, they will not be allowed to take over Yemen. Period. So the legitimate government will be defended,” al-Jubeir said.
“The chance they have is to enter the political process, reach an agreement … for the benefit of all Yemenis including the Houthis,” he said.
The Houthis have held on, having made an alliance with Saleh, who enjoys the support of most of the military.
The Houthis and the GPC hold most of Yemen’s northern half, while forces working for the exiled government share control of the rest of the country with tribes.
At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s 18-month-old civil war, the United Nations on Tuesday, approaching double the estimates of more than 6,000 cited by officials and aid workers for much of 2016.
Speaking earlier to students at a Beijing university, al-Jubeir lambasted Iran.
“We wish we could be as good neighbors like before the 1979 revolution,” al-Jubeir said.
“It’s up to Iran to mend its behavior.”