Last updated: 15 June, 2015

Yemen foreign minister says ‘not optimistic’ as peace talks begin

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin voiced pessimism Monday as high stakes talks aimed at trying to resolve his country’s bloody conflict got off to a stumbling start in Geneva.

“I’m not very optimistic,” Yassin told AFP, lamenting that the Iran-backed Shiite rebels battling exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi’s internationally recognised government “never respect any treaty.”

“They don’t even bother to come,” he said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon declared the process open Monday morning, urging an immediate two-week humanitarian pause in Yemen to mark Ramadan.

But the Huthi rebel delegation had yet to arrive by midday, since its plane was delayed in Djibouti.

That pushed the face-to-face meetings back further, after the talks could not start Sunday as initially planned, due to delays after the rebels refused to board a UN-chartered plane that had been scheduled for a stopover in Saudi Arabia.

Yassin also complained that the rebels had loaded their plane with far more representatives and advisors than had been agreed up.

“They want to come here to make chaos,” he said.

Yemen has been wracked by conflict between the rebels and Hadi’s government.

The dissidents have seized control of large parts of the country including the capital Sanaa, forcing Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia in February.

Fearing an Iran-friendly regime to its south, Saudi Arabia has led a campaign of air strikes against the rebels since March 26 but has so far failed to force them from territory they have seized.

Yassin on Monday compared the Huthis to ruthless jihadists from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

“The only difference is that they have got support from one country,” he said, pointing out that “The Huthis have got the support of Iran, and that is where (the whole) problem is coming from.”