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Yemen peace talks ‘closer’ to agreement: UN envoy

epa05272733 UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C) arrives for a press conference at Kuwait's information ministry in Kuwait City, Kuwait, 22 April 2016. UN-brokered peace talks between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels kicked off on 21 April in Kuwait in an attempt to end a year-long war and allow the resumption of inclusive political dialogue in the war-affected Arab country.  EPA/RAED QUTENA


Kuwait City / AFP

The UN envoy said on Wednesday that Yemen’s warring parties were closer to agreement at peace talks in Kuwait as he headed to New York to brief the Security Council.
“We are moving towards a general understanding that encompasses the expectations and visions of the parties,” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement.
“The discussions have become more sensitive and delicate bringing us closer to a comprehensive agreement,” he said.
Ould Cheikh Ahmed is to brief the UN Security Council in a closed session later on Wednesday on the progress made in the peace talks which began on April 21 but have been clouded by repeated walkouts by the government delegation. Face-to-face meetings resumed on Monday for the first time in nearly a week after the latest government
Ould Cheikh Ahmed said discussions on Tuesday centred on “various military and security issues including withdrawals and troop movements”.
“We are now working on overcoming various obstacles and addressing specific details of an implementation mechanism,” he said. The apparent progress comes after Foreign Minister Abdulmalek Al Mikhlafi said on Monday that the government stood ready to make concessions for the sake of peace.
A Western diplomat familiar with the talks said they had made important progress. “We are in a stage where the parties have to make hard choices and compromises,” the diplomat said, adding that he was “very optimistic” that a deal could be reached.
“We have not seen this momentum towards peace in the past one and a half years… a roadmap plan has been laid down… and it has to work,” he said.

‘National Salvation
The main sticking point in the talks has been the form of government to oversee a transition. Houthi Shiite rebels and their allies have demanded a unity government.
The government delegation insists that the legitimacy of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi must be respected The government has also demanded that rebels implement an April 2015 Security Council resolution demanding their withdrawal from the capital and other territory they have seized since 2014. To overcome this problem, the UN envoy has proposed a “National Salvation Government,” the Western diplomat said.
The proposed government “would be formed on a consensual and inclusive basis and in accordance with the legal references, and would only replace the current government once Sanaa and key government institutions are not under the control of non-state actors,” he said.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam warned that if no fair solution was reached, the rebels would form the government in Sanaa.
“Yemenis are awaiting a fair solution and if it fails, anti-aggression national forces must fill the vacuum by forming a government to serve the people and confront challenges,” Abdulsalam said on Twitter.
The rebel delegation met late Tuesday with the ambassadors to Yemen of the United States, Britain and the European Union and called for the formation of a “consensus executive authority” in Yemen. Despite a 14-month-old Saudi-led military intervention in support of Hadi’s government, the rebels and their allies still control many of Yemen’s most populous regions, including the central and northern highlands and the Red Sea coast.

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