Yemeni government dismisses UN report, warring factions prepare for Geneva talks

Mattis said Saudi Arabia had every right to defend its territory and that the Saudis have been receptive to advice and training.

SANA'A — The internationally recognised government of Yemen and the Saudi-led coalition supporting it in the fight against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels rejected a UN report claiming that both sides in the conflict might have committed war crimes.

The Yemeni government said it was shocked by the UN report and claimed it lacked “accuracy and objectivity,” the pro-government Saba news agency reported.

Ishraq al-Maqtari, spokeswoman for the National Committee for Investigating Human Rights Allegations in Yemen, said the UN report was “very weak” and that the investigation did not have adequate fieldwork.

Maqtari, speaking with the pro-government Al-Masdar Online, said the report “did not come up with new information and did not show any results stemming from an investigation.”

“The report did not appear to have been based on an investigation conducted according to international standards, such as in regard to weapons inspections and measuring the extent of the warring parties’ physical presence in conflict areas,” she said.

UN investigators said they had “reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law” and that many of the violations equated to “war crimes.”

The Saudi-led coalition rejected the findings, alleging “many inaccuracies.”

An official coalition statement said the UN report included mistaken claims that the coalition obstructed the delivery of humanitarian supplies to civilians. It expressed “surprise for the report’s disregard of the great humanitarian role played by the coalition states in Yemen and the huge humanitarian assistance it has provided in order to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.”

The coalition said it had helped during the UN team’s visits to Yemen and provided answers to the Office of the UN High Commissioner to queries from the UN group. The coalition said it did not receive acknowledgement of the information it submitted.

After the report’s release, US Defence Secretary James Mattis said at a news conference that the United States would continue to support the coalition. He said US support had led to a drop in civilian casualties.

Mattis said Saudi Arabia had every right to defend its territory and that the Saudis have been receptive to advice and training on conducting air strikes. “At no time have we felt rebuffed or ignored when we bring concerns to them,” he said. “The training that we have given them we know has paid off.”

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths is working to get warring factions to Switzerland for a meeting September 6.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani is to lead the government’s 14-member delegation. Sources said the Houthi delegation would be led by its official spokesman, Mohammed Abdul Salam al-Houthi. Envoys from 19 other countries are expected but not Iran, which is seen as a main backer of the Houthis.

Yemeni diplomat Mustafa al-Nu’man said expectations should not be high about this round of talks, which comes after two years of deadlock in the political process but Yemeni activist Arhab al-Sarhi gave a more optimistic view, describing the Geneva consultations as a first step to resuming dialogue.

He said the talks come after several changes in Yemen, including a new UN envoy, in addition to growing differences among the Houthis and their supporters.

Sarhi said if the Geneva consultations are successful they will develop a general framework towards negotiations that would be in Jordan.

Saleh Baidhani is an Arab Weekly contributor based in Sana’a.

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