Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi announced on Saturday that he will not participate in the UN-sponsored peace talks starting this coming Thursday, according to Saudi-based media outlet Al-Arabiya. The announcement comes amidst preparations for the talks that are to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Hadi government insists on the implementation of UNSC Resolution 2216, calling for the Houthi militia’s complete withdrawal from captured territory and the return of control of state institutions and of weapons seized from the army.
Yet it is unclear whether the government will send a representative other than Hadi himself to the talks, which will involve participants from the Houthi militia and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party.
The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif on Thursday to prepare the talks. Semi-official Iranian news agency FARS also claimed that Cheikh Ahmed lauded the Iranian efforts to settle the Yemen crisis.
The participants of the Geneva talks remain unconfirmed; with no clear sign that Iran or Saudi Arabia taking part in the conference.
Talks, likely in preparation of the Geneva summit, were held in the Omani capital Muscat, with a Houthi delegation arriving there on Saturday according to Reuters news agency. Oman has a reputation for being a relatively neutral broker in the Yemen crisis for not siding with a specific faction, although it is a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Meanwhile, the Yemen Post newspaper reported the downing of an F-15 Saudi fighter jet, backing the claim with footage of the purportedly downed plane. The information could not be confirmed independently so far.
Fighting in Yemen is still fierce, with reports about heavy shelling of the city of Taiz by Houthi forces and about renewed coalition air strikes. Also the border crossing between Saudi Arabia and Yemen has been partially destroyed during the exchange of heavy artillery fire by the two sides.