Middle East

Yemen crisis: Geneva talks fail to produce ceasefire

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin (C) is surrounded by journalists after a meeting during Yemen peace talks at the United Nations offices in Geneva on June 19, 2015. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin said he was still hopeful peace talks would succeed

Peace talks between Yemen's warring factions have failed to produce a ceasefire agreement, according to the country's exiled foreign minister.

Riad Yassin blamed the failure of talks in Geneva on the rebel Houthi side, which he said had stalled progress.

Mr Yassin said that efforts would continue to find a peaceful solution to the conflict, but added no date had been set for a second round of talks.

Yemen's conflict has left an estimated 20 million people in need of aid.

"We really came here with a big hope and still we are optimistic that we will go into a peaceful solution for Yemen under the umbrella of the United Nations," Mr Yassin told reporters.

"But unfortunately the Houthi delegation did not allow us to really reach all progress as we expected. This is not getting as much success as we hoped but it doesn't mean that we have failed."

There were numerous extensions to the talks during five days of diplomacy brokered by UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who was forced to shuttle between the delegations after they refused to sit down together.

But Mr Ahmed said there was "a certain willingness from all the parties to discuss issues around the ceasefire".

"We managed to get suggestions from both sides that we can build upon in coming days in order to reach a permanent agreement," he added.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Houthi supporters have been staging rallies against Saudi-led air raids

The government has insisted that the rebels must withdraw from the vast territory they have seized, and has protested that the Houthi delegation is more than double the pre-agreed maximum of 10 people.

The rebels have demanded that air strikes be halted before they will agree to a ceasefire.

Mr Ahmed said he would leave Geneva for New York on Sunday to brief the UN Security Council. He will also ask council members to approve his plans to put civilian observers on the ground in Yemen in the event of a ceasefire agreement.

A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states has been bombing the Houthis and their allies in Yemen since March.

The Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in September before surging on towards the second city of Aden, forcing Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and his government into exile in Saudi Arabia.

Launching the talks, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed for a two-week humanitarian ceasefire during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, but fighting continues.

In recent weeks, clashes between Saudi forces and the Houthis have intensified on Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia.

More than 2,600 people have been killed since the bombing campaign began, the UN says.

Also on Friday, the UK announced a £40 million donation to the UN's humanitarian appeal for Yemen. International Development Secretary Justine Greening said the money would pay for emergency shelters, healthcare, water and food assistance.