Yemen rebel ally welcomes Swiss peace talks

yemen rebelsThe party of Yemen’s former strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, a key rebel ally, on Tuesday welcomed UN-brokered peace talks due to open in Switzerland at the weekend.

The General People’s Congress said it had not yet received a formal invitation from the United Nations but the UN envoy met with party representatives in the rebel-held capital late last month as part of his efforts to convene the talks in Geneva.

Saleh himself is under UN sanctions for his support for the rebels and did not take part in the meetings, party sources said.

The party “welcomes holding the Geneva conference for consultations between Yemeni political components without any preconditions from any group, with good will and under the patronage of the United Nations,” its website said.

Saleh, who ruled for 33 years before being forced from power in 2012 after a bloody year-long uprising, threw the support of his loyalists in the army behind the rebels in the sweeping offensive that forced his successor into exile in March.

He himself proposed Geneva as the venue for the talks as a compromise between rebel-held Sanaa and the Saudi capital Riyadh, where exiled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi is based.

His loyalists have been repeatedly targeted alongside the rebels in a Saudi-led bombing campaign launched in support of Hadi on March 26.

Coalition strikes hit pro-Saleh troops and rebels across the capital before dawn on Tuesday, witnesses said.

Plumes of smoke were seen rising from the defence ministry which they jointly control.

Residents also reported air strikes in third city Taez and the eastern oil province of Marib — both key battlegrounds — and in the rebel heartland in the far north.

The peace talks are due to open in Geneva on Sunday. They had initially been scheduled for May 28 but were postponed after Hadi demanded the rebels first withdraw from seized territory.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged all sides to join the talks without preconditions in abid to end a conflict which has killed more than 2,000 people since March.

But the exiled president set new conditions in an interview broadcast on Monday, insisting the sole item for discussion would be implementation of a UN resolution demanding the rebels withdraw.

“There will be no negotiations,” Hadi told Al-Arabiya television.

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