ADEN, Yemen, Sept. 6 - The delegation of the Yemeni government gave the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels a 24-hour-deadline to attend the UN-sponsored peace talks in Geneva and threatened to withdraw if Houthi delegates remain absent.
Yemen's Foreign Minister Khaled Yamani leading the government delegation announced on Thursday that "in the next few hours, we will make our decision either to attend the Geneva talks or withdraw from it."
"Our delegates are ready to engage in the UN-backed negotiations and arrived here early as planned but we will not wait forever for the Houthi delegates to arrive," Yamani declared.
The UN-sponsored talks between the two warring rivals were scheduled to start on Thursday but the Houthi leaders decided to set new conditions before talks, including flying some of their seriously injured members to Oman to receive treatment.
On Thursday, a source from Sanaa airport said there was no plane there yet for the Houthi delegation.
A Yemeni government official based in Aden said on condition of anonymity that the Saudi-led Arab coalition gave the Houthi delegation permission to depart from Sanaa airport before they put forward additional requests.
The rebel-run al-Masirah TV reported on Wednesday that the Houthis said the coalition had prevented them from
flying from Sanaa to Geneva. They also accused the UN of not keeping a promise to transport wounded on the flight.
"Serious arguments among the Houthi group leaders delayed their delegation presence in Geneva," said the Yemeni foreign minister during an interview with the Dubai-based Sky News Arabia TV.
According to him, "the Houthi militia leaders are not ready for political solutions and they are still arguing about naming their representatives to Geneva talks."
The anonymous government source also backed him in that, saying "the Houthis are trying to find excuses not to attend Geneva talks because they don't believe in the political process."
"Flying their injured members or other demands must be discussed during the consultations period not now," the source said, adding that "Houthis have no desire to participate in the Geneva negotiations and it looks like the efforts of the United Nations will fail again like in the past."
Salah Badr, a pro-government journalist based in Aden, said that "Houthis have no confidence in the process sponsored by the United Nations."
"Houthi militias are against peace and such conditions were the reason behind the failure of previous talks," Badr said.
He added that "the UN envoy must clarify everything to the international community about the behavior of such militia."
Earlier on Thursday, the United Nations Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths held a meeting with the Yemeni government delegation headed by Yamani.
They discussed what to expect from these consultations and relevant issues to the peace process, in particular Confidence Building Measures, according to a UN press release.
The special envoy thanked the Yemeni government for their positive engagement to relaunch the peace process. He also acknowledged their efforts to facilitate the consultation.
Griffiths was hopeful to see Sanaa delegation present to expedite the political process and vowed to continue in making efforts to overcome obstacles to push forward the consultations.
The last UN-backed peace negotiations for Yemen were held in 2016 in Kuwait, which continued for several months in the Gulf country but no constructive results had been reached due to serious differences between the rival parties.
The impoverished Arab country has been locked into a civil war since the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including capital Sanaa, in 2014.
The internal military conflict between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government recently entered its fourth year, aggravating the suffering of Yemenis and deepening the world's worst humanitarian crisis.