AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The Yemeni government’s delegation to peace talks focused on the southwestern city of Taiz demanded on Saturday that the United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg denounce the Iran-backed Houthis for rejecting proposals to end the siege of Taiz and threatening to undermine the UN-brokered truce.
Ali Al-Ajar, a member of the government delegation, said the international community’s lenient stance would only encourage the Houthis to refuse to lift their siege of the city, which began in 2015.
“He should push for the implementation of his proposal and name and shame the party that rejected it,” Al-Ajar told Arab News. “His policy of holding the stick from the middle will not lead to any solution.”
Grundberg initially propose the opening of a main road and four secondary roads around the city in Amman, during the latest round of talks on Taiz between the government and the Houthis.
The government delegation, which had previously insisted that the Houthis lift their siege of Taiz immediately, accepted the proposal, while the Houthi delegation requested time to discuss it with their leaders in Sanaa.
Grundberg had visited Sanaa and Muscat in an effort to convince the Houthis to accept his proposal and start implementing a key element of the UN-brokered truce that came into effect on April 2.
The Houthis officially rejected Grundberg’s proposal on Taiz on Thursday, proposing as an alternative the “immediate opening” of two of the city’s access roads, one linking Taiz to Sanaa via Aber, Al-Saremen, Al-Demenah and Al-Houban, and the second connecting Taiz to Aden through Al-Sharejah (Lahj), Karesh and Al-Rahedah.
Those roads were described by the government delegation as “unpaved, long, and going through flood courses.” The first road, they said, is “small and rough” and only viable for off-road vehicles, while the second road runs through Houthi-controlled areas.
“For us, the (siege) is better than accepting the Houthi’s proposal. The road is one-way and dusty and would not alleviate the suffering of the people of Taiz. They should open the wide road between Taiz and Al-Houban,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military officer in Taiz, told Arab News.
Protesters on Friday congregated near Taiz’s blockaded western and eastern entrances to denounce the Houthi siege and draw international attention to their suffering. “Break Taiz siege,” read one of the posters written in English.
Taiz has been effectively cut off from the rest of the country since the Houthi siege began seven years ago, but the Iran-backed militia has so far failed to seize control of the city thanks to fierce opposition from the army and resistance fighters.