Iran proposed Wednesday to hold UN talks on ending the conflict in Yemen at a neutral venue, pointing to the success of the talks on Afghanistan held in Germany in 2001.
The United Arab Emirates was part of a coalition of Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia that launched air strikes on March 26 against Huthi Shiite rebels whom Riyadh accuses Tehran of arming.
“Everybody in Yemen should engage in a dialogue without preconditions and I do not believe that is taking place in the UAE,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said at New York University.
“The UAE unfortunately became part of the conflict,” he added. “It has to take place in a place that is not a party to this conflict.”
The United Nations says more than 1,000 people have been killed in fighting in Yemen since late March, when Riyadh assembled the coalition in support of the country’s exiled president.
Zarif said the talks should include everyone in Yemen and lead to a broad-based government that has good relations with its neighbors.
“It should be a Yemeni-owned and a Yemeni-operated process. We can facilitate,” he said.
He recalled the 2001 Bonn conference, held under UN auspices, that paved the way for an Afghan government after the US-led invasion brought down the Taliban.
Iran took part in the Bonn talks, a rare example where Tehran is said to have cooperated with Washington.
“I think Yemen should be the same and I think the United Nations has enough experience to lead that, and we’ve been talking to them and I hope they can do it,” he added.
Zarif described the situation in Yemen as “dire” and said the humanitarian situation was “catastrophic.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry and EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini discussed Yemen on Wednesday, the State Department said.
“They did talk about the need to, as quickly as possible, move to a political dialogue to get Yemenis at the table to move this process forward,” said acting State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.
“They talked about possible ways that could happen,” she added, without going into details.
Harf said the United States had always been open to Iran “having a role in discussions about issues where they can play a role.”
Kerry raised the conflict in Yemen with Zarif during their talks on Monday in New York calling on all players to use their influence to bring the sides to negotiations, a US official said.