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Houthis reject proposed GCC peace talks in Riyadh

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The Houthis have rejected the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) offer to broker comprehensive peace talks in Riyadh between the warring factions.

The six-member GCC includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

The Houthis said they would not attend talks in Riyadh, because Saudi Arabia cannot be a mediator or host since it's a party in the war. "Riyadh is a party in the war not a mediator," Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, head of the movement's supreme revolutionary committee, said in a Twitter post.

The Houthis say they would instead be open to talks in a "neutral country." GCC member states Kuwait and Oman have attempted to mediate in the past.

The GCC Secretary-General Nayef al-Hajraf told reporters Thursday that the talks planned for March 29 through April 7 were the latest effort to try and bring the Yemenis to the negotiating table.

Al-Hajraf did not name the Houthis specifically but said the GCC "invites all Yemenis without exception to take part in these talks with the goal of discussing political, military, security, economic and development obstacles in Yemen."

Dr. Nayef Al-Hajraf told a press conference in Riyadh on Thursday that the consultations are aimed at uniting ranks, bridging the rift between the conflicting sides, supporting legitimacy and strengthening state institutions.

"Invitations to the Yemen talks will be sent to everyone and they will be held with whoever attends," Al-Hajraf said.

"The GCC will host the talks between Yemeni factions to resolve the crisis. We urge all Yemeni parties to cease fire and start peace talks."

There have been no substantial peace talks since the 2018 negotiations in Sweden that ended fighting in and around the port city of Hodeida.

Since then, the Houthis have pressed offensives in northern and central Yemen, reaching the outskirts of the crucial city of Marib, the last stronghold for the government in northern Yemen. The Houthis control northern regions bordering Saudi Arabia.

Yemen's conflict erupted in September 2014 when the Houthis overran the capital and forced the government into exile. The war has killed tens of thousands of people, including at least 14,500 civilians, according to the Associated Press.

A U.N. appeal on Wednesday raised $1.3 billion, less than a third of what had been targeted to help Yemenis avoid starvation. Some 161,000 people are likely to experience famine in Yemen in 2022.

The conflict is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The Houthis continue to battle US-backed coalition forces on the ground in energy-producing Marib, the the Saudi-backed Yemeni government's last stronghold in North Yemen.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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