Kerry Calls on Houthis to Enter Peace Talks

Kerry Calls on Houthis to Enter Peace Talks
Kerry Calls on Houthis to Enter Peace Talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Houthi forces in Yemen to participate in UN-brokered negotiations to end violence ravaging the country.

“This has to be a two-way street,” Kerry told reporters in Canada after taking part in a summit of Arctic nations. “We need the Houthi and we need those that can influence them to make sure that they are prepared to try to move... to the negotiating table,” Kerry said, DW reported.

The United Nations had already appointed a facilitator and both sides appeared ready to discuss a location for peace talks, Kerry said.

“Now the key is to get that up and running and get to the talks as fast as possible because a political solution is absolutely essential,” the top US diplomat said.

Innocent civilians were being caught up in the violence in Yemen and it was “a top priority to try to minimize it,” he added. “Hopefully in the next days this will de-escalate even more and we can get to a place where negotiations take hold.”

Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh also called on Friday for all Yemenis to enter a political dialogue to end the conflict. “I call on all conflicting parties in all provinces to stop fighting and return to dialogue in all provinces,” Saleh said in an emailed statement.

He called for UN-brokered talks between Yemenis and Saudi Arabia to be held in Geneva. Saudi Arabia has been targeting the Houthis with airstrikes for a month, killing hundreds of civilians.

Saleh added that he is ready to reconcile with the parties that have opposed him since he was “forced from the presidency” in 2011, and called on all militants, including al-Qaeda and armed supporters of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to withdraw from Aden and hand over power to the army and local officials.

Saleh heads the General People’s Congress Party and is believed to have considerable influence on the country’s Houthi forces. He ruled for 33 years before an uprising in 2011 forced him to give up power. “I will forgive everybody in the interests of the nation,” said Saleh.

More than 550 civilians have died after Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes designed to rout Houthi rebels who had taken over the port city of Aden and driven President Hadi out of the country. Hadi has meanwhile taken refuge in Riyadh.

  Civilian Toll

Yemen’s war is wreaking a particularly bloody toll among civilians: more than 550 have been killed in the past month, including 115 children, the UN said Friday.

Amnesty International said in a new report that some of the airstrikes it examined in the capital of Sanaa and four other cities raise “concerns about compliance with international law,” saying they appeared to have failed to take precautions to avoid civilian casualties.

The air campaign that began March 26 “has transformed many parts of Yemen into a dangerous place for civilians,” the report said. “Millions of people have been forced to live in a state of utter terror, afraid of being killed in their homes.” It said about 150,000 people have fled their homes the past month.

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said 551 civilians have been killed and 1,185 injured in the fighting between March 26 and April 22. The total death toll including both combatants and civilians is 1,080, the UN said.

More civilian areas were hit Friday by warplanes, including a stadium in the southern town of Zinjibar and a courthouse in the town of Lahj, witnesses said. Casualties were not immediately known.

Saudi Arabia leads a coalition of Arab countries, Egypt and Sudan, in the campaign against Houthis, who have taken over much of Yemen.