The Yemeni government and rebel opposition Houthis have both declared their willingness to attend UN-organised peace talks in Geneva next month.
The talks, to be held in Geneva on September 6, were announced on Thursday by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, who said that a “political solution was possible” to end a conflict ongoing since 2015.
On Friday, a close advisor to internationally-recognised Yemeni president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi said that the government would be present in Switzerland, but that it was “not optimistic” about reaching a peace deal.
For their part, the opposition Houthi rebel group – who control large areas of the country including capital Sana’a – announced on Saturday that they had no problem with attending such discussions in “a neutral country”.
The talks will aim to solve a conflict that has caused over 10,000 deaths since a Saudi and UAE-backed coalition launched a military campaign on behalf of Hadi’s government in 2015.
Since then, the poor country at the southern edge of the Arabian Peninsula has witnessed the “worst humanitarian crisis” in the world, according to the UN; hunger and violence persists, while a cholera outbreak has killed over 2,000.
On the same day that the UN announced the upcoming talks, an air raid on the Yemeni Red Sea town of Hodeida – controlled by Houthis – led to some 55 civilian deaths and 170 injuries, according to Red Cross reports.
The casualties were largely down to bombings that appeared to target the Al-Thawra hospital (the largest in the country) and the town’s fish market (70% of Yemen’s food imports pass via Hodeida).
The government-supported military coalition denied responsibility for the attack. The UN and the Red Cross strongly condemned the civilian deaths and the areas targeted.
Previous UN efforts to hold peace talks in Geneva to find a solution to the Yemeni conflict floundered on Houthi reluctance to withdraw from strategic cities, as well as it’s resistance to sharing power.