By Zakria al-Kamali
SANAA, Yemen (AA) – As ongoing peace talks in Kuwait approach the six-week mark, they have yet to register any tangible breakthroughs between war-torn Yemen’s rival political camps.
UN-brokered negotiations between the Yemeni government, led by President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, and representatives of the Shia Houthi group and their allies kicked off in Kuwait City on April 11.
Last Friday, four days after the government delegation suspended its participation in the talks due to alleged Houthi intransigence, UN mediator Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed again failed to bring the two sides any closer together.
Sources close to the talks told Anadolu Agency that Ahmed on Thursday had met with the head of the Houthi delegation, Mohamed Abdel Salam, to discuss the government’s conditions for resuming the talks.
Following the meeting, however, it became apparent that the UN mediator had once again failed to bridge the gap between the two rivals, the sources -- insisting on anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media -- said.
Last week, Ahmed had urged both sides to meet each other’s conditions for resuming talks, calling on the government delegation in particular to show patience and flexibility.
Since then, sources close to the talks have told Anadolu Agency that fresh mediation attempts -- including one by Omani mediators -- had tried to convince the Houthis to make concessions.
The government delegation insists that it represents Yemen’s sole legitimate governing authority, citing last year’s UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis to lay down their arms and withdraw from cities occupied earlier.
The Houthis, for their part, say they represent the country’s de facto rulers, having run sovereign state institutions -- including Yemen’s central bank -- for more than one year.
The Houthi delegation, the sources say, want to see President Hadi replaced with a "presidential transitional council" to temporarily run the country’s affairs.
This would be followed by the establishment of a "unity government" to include Houthi representatives.
The government, meanwhile, the same sources said, insist that the Houthis first surrender their weapons and withdraw from cities occupied since late 2014.
Only then, government negotiators assert, would the current government be expanded to include representatives of the Houthis and their allies.
Yemen has been racked by chaos since late 2014, when the Houthis -- along with forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Sallah -- overran capital Sanaa and several other parts of the country.
The move forced Hadi and his Saudi-backed government to flee to Riyadh for a six-month period.
In March of last year, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive military campaign in Yemen aimed at reversing Houthi gains and restoring Hadi’s embattled government.
According to UN figures, the ongoing conflict has led to the death of some 6,400 Yemenis to date and forced some 2.5 million to flee their homes.
On April 11, the UN-brokered talks began in Kuwait following the announcement of a ceasefire.