April 20, 2016 / 2:05 PM / 3 years ago

Houthis head for delayed Yemen peace talks starting Thursday

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Negotiators from Yemen’s Houthi group and their allies left the capital Sanaa on Wednesday for delayed U.N-backed peace talks in Kuwait with the Yemeni government after a dispute over a shaky ceasefire was resolved.

A Houthi militant helps a man with a wheelchair pass a checkpoint in Yemen's capital Sanaa April 18, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The talks to end the year-long war were meant to start on Monday but representatives of the Iran-allied Houthi group and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh did not turn up.

They accused the Yemeni government and its military allies led by Saudi Arabia of violating a temporary ceasefire, including with air strikes that had killed at least two civilians. They also said the agenda of the Kuwait meeting had been altered without consulting them.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed the talks would begin on Thursday.

Talks to end the war that has killed at least 6,200 people and caused a humanitarian crisis, are expected to focus on creating a more inclusive government and restoring state authority over the country, which is now divided between the Houthis and President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s administration.

Yemen’s government has also accused the Houthis of violating the truce and said on Wednesday it was running out of patience with the other side.

“If the session does not begin tomorrow...the delegation would be compelled to leave,” it said in a statement published on Yemen’s Sabanew agency.

The government had given the Houthis “full opportunity” to negotiate and had been patient enough despite continued ceasefire violations and attacks in Yemen, it said.

Mahdi al-Mashat, a senior Houthi official, said on Tuesday his group had received assurances that the ceasefire would be upheld and the peace talks agenda would “reflect the issues that are likely to lead to peaceful solutions to end the status quo”.

The talks’ delay prompted U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the five permanent Security Council members to intervene.

Sources at Sanaa airport said 14 delegates representing the Houthi’s Ansarullah group and Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC), were seen boarding an Omani plane.

They were expected to change planes in Muscat before continuing on to Kuwait, where delegates from Hadi’s government have been waiting since earlier this week for the talks to start.

“We confirm that we will leave for Kuwait, carrying all the worries, wounds, aspirations and hopes of the great Yemeni people,” Yahya Duwaid, a representative of Saleh’s GPC party, said on the group’s website.

An official spokesman for the Houthis confirmed on Facebook that representatives for the group were on their way to Kuwait.

Additonal reporting by Louis Charbonneau at the United Nations and Omar Fahmy in Cairo, Writing by Sami Aboudi and Sylvia Westall; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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