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Iran backs Yemen talks but no foreign interference: FM


Mohammad Javad Zarif

Mohammad Javad Zarif

Iran voiced support Thursday for efforts to relaunch political talks on the Yemen crisis but said it opposed foreign interference in the conflict in which it backs the Huthi rebels.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also called for a ceasefire in Yemen, where Saudi-led coalition warplanes have stepped up raids on the Shiite rebels who have overrun much of the country.

“Iran backs initiatives aimed at bringing Yemeni political groups around the negotiating table,” Zarif said as he received the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

However, Zarif insisted that the talks should be attended only by Yemen’s political groups and that no representatives from “any other country should be present at the dialogue”, Fars news agency reported.

He did say that other countries “could have a role to assist in this process”, but did not elaborate.

UN-brokered talks to relaunch a political dialogue between Yemen’s rival factions are due to open in Geneva next week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has said.

But it remains unclear if the Huthis, who overran much of Yemen and forced the government to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia, will attend.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin has said he would not go to Geneva unless the Huthis withdrew from at least part of territory they have seized.

The UN envoy said all Yemeni factions should take part in the talks which he described as “one of the biggest chances of finding a political solution” to the conflict, Fars said.

The Saudi-led coalition launched an air war on Yemen on March 26 aimed at restoring the authority of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The violence has displaced half a million people and raised alarm among aid agencies, which are unable to reach civilians trapped in the fighting.

Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of arming the Huthi rebels, but Tehran denies the charges.

Iran says it is helping in Yemen by opposing air strikes and providing aid.

The Iranian Red Crescent said that a plane carrying 20 tonnes of food would leave late Thursday for Djibouti, where the UN has set up an aid hub for Yemen.

An Iranian boat carrying aid and initially set to head for the Yemeni port of Hodeida was also due to dock in Djibouti for inspection, after warnings from Washington and the Saudi-led coalition.

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