Yemen peace talks ended in Geneva on Friday with no agreement, but the UN said it was still optimistic a ceasefire could be reached “pretty soon.”
“I won’t beat around the bush. There was no kind of agreement reached,” UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
However, he hailed “certain positive signs” in his negotiations with the warring factions, adding that both sides seemed to agree on the need for a ceasefire.
“We feel that it requires simply some further consultations and that we can achieve it pretty soon,” said the envoy, who now heads to New York to brief UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN Security Council.
No date has yet been set for a fresh round of talks, but the Mauritanian diplomat said he hoped a desperately needed humanitarian pause in the fighting could be put in place before any new talks.
Yemen has been wracked by conflict between Iran-backed Shiite rebels and troops loyal to exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Saudi Arabia in February.
The rebels have overrun much of the Sunni-majority country and, along with their allies among forces loyal to ousted Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been the target of Saudi-led air strikes since March. More than 2,600 people have been killed.
“I am disappointed, we did everything to make the talks a success, but there were too many obstacles, especially the demand for a withdrawal,” rebel delegation leader Hamza al-Huthi said. “We cannot withdraw and leave a vacuum, but I am hopeful that we will be able to talk again in the near future.”
Ban launched the high-stakes Geneva negotiations on Monday with an appeal for a two-week humanitarian truce during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
However, the belligerents’ positions were so far apart that they did even sit down in the same room, forcing Ould Cheikh Ahmed to shuttle between separate locations.
Yemen’s exiled foreign minister blamed the lack of progress on the rebel delegation.
“We really came here with a big hope ... but unfortunately the Huthi delegation did not allow us really to reach real progress as we expected,” Yassin told reporters.
The government delegation remained optimistic of a peaceful solution for Yemen “under the umbrella of the UN,” he added.
However, Ould Cheikh Ahmed however insisted that just getting the two sides to Geneva had been “a great achievement,” as he pledged to intensify his push for peace.
“The Geneva consultations are not the end in themselves, but the launch of a long and arduous path” towards finding a peaceful solution, he said.
And the US said the Geneva talks were “a useful start to the process to what will probably be a lengthy process.”
“We continue to urge all Yemeni participants to prioritize reaching an agreement to end the fighting,” US Department of State spokesman John Kirby said.
As the talks wrapped up on Friday, the UN launched an appeal for US$1.6 billion to help millions of people in need in the war-ravaged country.
“I am deliberately raising the alarm about the looming humanitarian catastrophe facing Yemen, where over 21 million Yemenis, 80 percent of the country’s population, are in need of some form of aid to meet their basic needs or protect their basic rights today,” UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brian told reporters.
“These numbers are difficult to comprehend,” he said, but insisted “we must not grow numb to the suffering of each and every individual who lies behind them.”
Friday’s funding appeal will cover aid, including food, water and shelter, to 11.7 million of the most vulnerable people in need through the end of the year.
The appeal was revised up from a combined US$1.02 billion requested in December and April for Yemen.
Only about one-fifth of the needed cash has so far been received, the UN said.
FOX HUNT: To suppress dissent, Chinese living abroad that Xi Jinping sees as threats are told to either return to China or commit suicide, Christopher Wray said Chinese agents have been pursuing hundreds of Chinese nationals living in the US in an effort to force their return, as part of a global campaign against the country’s diaspora, known as Operation Fox Hunt, FBI Director Christopher Wray said on Tuesday. In a speech about the security threat posed by China, during which he said Beijing’s counterintelligence work was the “greatest long-term threat to our nation’s information and intellectual property, and to our economic vitality,” Wray gave the example of one Fox Hunt target who was given a choice of going back to China or killing themselves. Fox Hunt was launched
‘WOULD NOT COMPLY’: The company’s user data are kept in Singapore and it would not turn the data over to Beijing even if asked, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said Social media app TikTok has distanced itself from Beijing after India banned 59 Chinese apps in the country, according to a correspondence seen by Reuters. In a letter to the Indian government dated on Sunday last week and seen by Reuters on Friday, TikTok chief executive Kevin Mayer said the Chinese government has never requested user data, nor would the company turn it over if asked. TikTok, which is not available in China, is owned by China’s ByteDance, but has sought to distance itself from its Chinese roots to appeal to a global audience. Along with 58 other Chinese apps, including Tencent
INTERNET CURBS: People are rushing to erase their digital footprints after police given powers over online activity, although it might take years for the full effect to be felt At midnight on Tuesday, the Great Firewall of China, the vast apparatus that limits the country’s Internet, appeared to descend on Hong Kong. Unveiling expanded police powers as part of contentious new national security legislation, the Hong Kong government enabled police to censor online speech, and force Internet service providers to hand over user information and shut down platforms. Many residents, already anxious since the legislation took effect last week, rushed to erase their digital footprint of any signs of dissent or support for the past year of protests. Hong Kong Legislator Charles Mok (莫乃光), a pro-democracy member of the Legislative
‘FIGHT FOR FREEDOM’: Hong Kongers will never bow to Beijing, the advocate said, while the US’ envoy to the territory called China’s new security law a ‘tragedy’ The world must stand in solidarity with Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed sweeping national security legislation on the semi-autonomous territory, advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) said yesterday, vowing to continue campaigning for democracy. Wong, one of the territory’s most prominent young advocates and a figure loathed by Beijing, was speaking outside a court where he and fellow advocates are being prosecuted for involvement in last year’s pro-democracy protests. China last week enacted sweeping security legislation for the restless territory, banning acts of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces. The legislation has sent a wave of fear through the territory, and criminalized dissenting