AL-MOUKALLA: Yemeni government negotiators say they will boycott any further talks with the Houthis over UN-mediated prisoner swaps until the militia reveals the whereabouts of politician Mohammed Qahtan detained, and allow his family and government officials to visit him.
In a message posted on Twitter, Hadi Haig, head of the government delegation in charge of the talks, wrote: “Our position is clear: we will not take part in the negotiations until this visit takes place. We hope that the office of the UN envoy will exert pressure in this regard to move the file forward.”
Mr Qahtan, a prominent Yemeni politician, was abducted eight years ago by the Houthis, who ignored repeated calls for his release by the UN Security Council, rights groups local and international and the politician’s family.
The Houthis’ reluctance to allow relatives of the politician to visit him or reveal his whereabouts has raised fears that he may have died in custody.
In a first round of prisoner swap talks in March, the Yemeni government and the Houthis agreed to swap more than 900 prisoners and grant each other access to prisons in Marib and Sanaa. The two sides were to meet after these visits for a second round of negotiations in hopes of negotiating the release of more prisoners.
However, members of a government delegation due to visit Houthi prisons said they were denied to see Qahtan. As a result, they canceled their visit and suspended their participation in talks with the militia.
Meanwhile, the Houthis said government “preconditions” had delayed their own delegation’s visit to a government-run prison in Marib.
The suspension of talks with the Houthis by the government delegation comes as Hans Grundberg, the UN special envoy for Yemen, continues to travel between regional capitals in a bid to engage those involved in the conflict in talks. The objective is to extend the truce negotiated by the UN and, ultimately, to conclude a peace agreement.
Mr Grundberg’s office says he arrived in Muscat on Monday, where he met with Omani officials and Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam to “explore ways to advance ongoing peace efforts”.
The envoy previously traveled to Riyadh, where he met, for the same purpose, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed al-Jaber, the ambassadors to Yemen of the five permanent members of the Security Council of the UN (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China), Rachad al-Alimi, the head of the Presidential Council of Yemen and other senior Yemeni officials.
In an interview with China Global Television Network last week, Mr. Grundberg stressed that a lasting ceasefire in Yemen “is possible in the near future”, but that it will require a lot of effort and concessions from from warring factions as well as international support.
“I believe it’s possible, but I can’t say it will be easy,” he adds. “It always requires compromises on the part of the parties in order to reach this degree of agreement.”
“Currently, discussions are underway at various levels to support the UN mediation efforts.”
This text is the translation of an article published on Arabnews.com