ADEN: Yemen’s warring parties will not meet face-to-face at a UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva this week which will likely focus on a prisoner exchange deal, government officials said Sunday.
The United Nations has invited Yemen’s government and the Iran-backed Huthi rebels to Geneva for talks from Thursday to Sunday.
Envoy Martin Griffiths has said the talks are aimed at charting a path forward to revive UN-backed negotiations which broke down in 2016.
Government officials say the talks will likely focus on a prisoner exchange deal and the fate of embattled Hodeida, the rebel-held port city that is now the frontline of the Yemen war.
Yemen’s Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani told AFP the meetings “will not be face-to-face and depend on how well the UN envoy manages the two sides”.
“The consultations will be indirect, unless there is some progress that can be made directly,” said Abdullah al-Olaimi, head of Yemen’s presidential office and a member of the Geneva delegation.
Yemen’s government has openly said it has low expectations for the talks, blaming the Huthis for refusing to make concessions.
“Our expectations are limited to the possibility of progress in the question of prisoners and detainees,” Yamani said.
“I think this is the chance to succeed in securing the release of prisoners, and I believe the other party is also willing and ready.”
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a government source said the delegation would demand the release of 5,000 prisoners.
The rebels aim to secure the release of 3,000 of their fighters, the source said.
Backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies, the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi has battled the Huthis for more than three years in what is widely seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran.
The conflict has killed more than 10,000 people since 2015 and triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition in June launched a major offensive to capture Hodeida from the Huthi rebels, sparking fears of a fresh humanitarian crisis. -AFP