Yemen’s Huthi rebels deliberately hampering Switzerland peace talks
LONDON - Iran-backed Huthis are deliberately hampering UN-sponsored Yemeni peace talks in Switzerland in a bid to end nearly nine months of fighting that has killed over 5,800 people and displaced millions.
Peace talks began on Tuesday in Switzerland, but appear to be making no progress Huthi rebels rejected government demands to release senior officials, including Defence Minister Mahmoud al-Subaihi and Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's brother, Nasser.
Subaihi and Nasser Mansour Hadi, who was responsible for intelligence operations in the provinces of Aden, Lahej and Abyan, have been held by the Huthis since March.
A fragile ceasefire declared by forces loyal to Hadi, which began on Tuesday, is facing the danger of collapse after reports of sporadic violations by Huthi rebels on the ground.
Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri, spokesman for the coalition forces that backed Shiite Iran has repeatedly violated the ceasefire and the coalition forces responded.
The Saudi-led coalition accused Huthi Shiite rebels of flouting the ceasefire immediately, and acknowledged that it had responded to these violations.
At least 15 people were killed from both sides, according to tribal and medical sources.
Heavy clashes erupted overnight Wednesday in Marib province, east of rebel-held Sanaa, between pro-government Popular Resistance fighters and the insurgents, witnesses said.
The Huthis and allied renegade troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh were also accused of bombing areas controlled by pro-Hadi forces in the flashpoint city of Taez.
Meanwhile, Yemeni pro-government forces and rebels completed an exchange of hundreds of detainees on Thursday, an official said, amid a shaky ceasefire and as UN-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland entered their third day.
"We have successfully completed the process of exchanging the prisoners," said Mokhtar al-Rabbash, a member of the prisoners' affairs committee, which is close to the government.
The swap involved 370 Huthi rebels and 285 pro-government fighters, he said.
It took place in the Yafaa district of the southern province of Lahj, along the border with the central province of Bayda, witnesses said.
The swap, was brokered by local tribal leaders, was slowed down by concerns over security along the route linking the two points of exchange, Rabbash said.