ADEN, Yemen: The United Nations envoy to Yemen touched down in the southern port city of Aden on Saturday to discuss prospects for peace talks between the embattled Aden-based government and Houthi forces, a source close to Yemen’s president said.
Forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi backed by mainly Gulf Arab states have been locked in eight months of civil war with the Iran-allied Houthis who rule the capital Sanaa.
Previous U.N.-led efforts to solve the crisis through dialogue have failed as battles rage across the country and Saudi-led warplanes bomb positions of Yemen’s ascendant Houthi group and its Yemeni army allies.
“The U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived at Aden international airport today ahead of a meeting with President Hadi aimed at laying the groundwork for the Geneva II talks,” a source in the presidency said.
It is the first time the envoy has paid an official visit to Aden, which Hadi declared the temporary capital after Arab coalition forces seized it from the Houthis in July.
Diplomats say the talks may take place this month in Switzerland, but some Yemeni officials have expressed skepticism.
The Houthi group swept Hadi from power in February as part of it what called a revolution against corruption and accused Hadi of being beholden to Saudi Arabia and the West.
Gulf Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia intervened as the civil war worsened in March, fearing the group was acting as a proxy for its regional rival Iran, but making few gains toward retaking the capital in a war that has killed over 5,700 people.
Mistrust runs deep between Yemen’s warring parties, with the Houthis believing the government wants to take back power by force and Hadi officials saying that the Houthis are refusing to withdraw from main cities as required by a U.N. Security Council Resolution passed in March.
“The government is ready for talks but the other side isn’t, and its actions on the ground contradict their statements that they support a peaceful solution,” Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, who was named as foreign minister by Hadi last week, told Reuters.