The sides to the Yemeni conflict are to convene in Geneva for the first time since 2016 under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) in an attempt to revive stalled peace talks.
Representatives from Yemen’s running government, which is allied to the popular Houthi movement, and the country’s former regime, backed by Saudi Arabia, are to participate in the talks in the Swiss city on Thursday.
UN envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths will be supervising the talks and is likely to shuttle between the two sides, as face-to-face meetings between them are unlikely.
Khaled al-Yamani, the foreign minister of the former regime, told AFP that the chances of face-to-face negotiations between the two sides “are slim to none.”
The news agency reported that the talks would likely focus on a prisoner exchange deal and the fate of the Yemeni port city of al-Hudaydah, which has been under escalated Saudi-led military attacks since June.
One US diplomat, meanwhile, said the negotiations “are really not intended to be talks or negotiations but consultations that demonstrate the capability of the UN to bring the sides together,” along with “confidence building measures.”
The two sides last held marathon negotiations — also organized by the UN — in Kuwait, trying unsuccessfully to hammer out a “power-sharing” accord.
The former Yemeni government resigned in 2015 as the country was experiencing political turmoil.
The head of that government, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, fled to Riyadh after resignation. There, he encouraged Saudi plans to launch military attacks on Yemen, where the Houthi movement had taken over state matters in the absence of a functioning government.
A Saudi-backed coalition soon invaded Yemen in an attempt to reinstall the former, Riyadh-friendly officials to power despite their resignation.
Thousands have been killed in the Saudi-led invasion, and the country has been pushed close to the edge of famine. A cholera outbreak, resulting from the devastation of Yemen’s health infrastructure, has also claimed more than 2,000 lives.