Geneva peace talks look to break Yemen deadlock

DUBAI: Yemen s warring factions will meet for UN-sponsored talks in Geneva from Sunday in their first bid to break a deadlock after more than two months of Saudi-led air strikes.


Fourteen Yemeni representatives — seven from each side of the conflict pitting Iran-backed rebels against the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and its allies — will take part in the talks in the Swiss city, expected to last two to three days.

Despite a fierce campaign of air strikes that has dealt heavy losses to the rebels, the Saudi-led coalition of mainly Arab nations has failed to alter the balance of power in Yemen or meet its goal of restoring the rule of the exiled Hadi.

And while the Shiite Huthi rebels have managed to hold on to territory they had seized, including the capital Sanaa, they have failed to expand their control across the entire country.

Analysts say that by agreeing to the talks, both sides have shown they are now looking for a way out.

“The war in Yemen, which is a civil war, has reached a deadlock,” said Ibrahim Sharqieh, deputy director of the Brookings Doha Center, adding that he believed both sides were ready to “make concessions and achieve a result”.

Saudi Arabia launched the air war on March 26, as the rebels and their allies among forces loyal to ex-strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh advanced on Hadi s southern refuge in the city of Aden.

Hadi had fled house arrest in the capital, which the rebels seized unopposed in September, and was rushed to safety in Saudi Arabia as the Huthis closed in on Aden.

Analysts say the Saudi intervention was aimed at preventing the Sunni-dominated kingdom s regional rival, Shiite power Iran, from gaining a foothold on its southern border.