Yemen rebels halt peace talks in Switzerland, set conditions
SANAA, YEMEN: Yemeni peace talks in Switzerland were halted on Friday after the country's Shiite Houthi rebel delegation suspended all meetings with the internationally recognised government in protest at its cease-fire violations, members of Yemen's two warring sides told The Associated Press.
The Houthis said they would not resume talks unless the UN condemned government breaches of the week-long truce, the delegates said. Houthi fighters have also ignored the cease-fire agreement.
The peace negotiations began Tuesday at the Swiss Olympic House in the village of Macolin, a training center for elite athletes. Police armed with automatic weapons patrolled outside the facility, which was cordoned off with metal barriers requiring journalists to keep about 50 meters (yards) away.
The UN mediator has sought to keep a lid on communications about the goings-on inside — with mixed results. Officials have never fully acknowledged the location of the talks, and Ahmad Fawzi, a UN spokesman in Geneva, has said participants signed a "non-disclosure" agreement pledging not to speak to the media until they were over.
Yemen has been torn by fighting pitting the Houthis and army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against pro-government forces, which are backed by a US-supported, Saudi-led coalition, as well as southern separatists, religious extremists and other militants.
On the ground, fighters from both sides are refusing to respect the cease-fire, security officials neutral in the conflict said.
A member of the Houthi delegation said that the UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had "promised to condemn the government and then he did not."
Speaking on Yemeni state TV, the Information Minister, Mohamed Abdel-Meguid, denied that the government violated the cease-fire and accused the Houthis of "making up excuses" to delay the peace process.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.