Yemen government demands Houthis release slain Saleh’s body

JEDDAH: Yemen’s government will demand the release of the body of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, killed by Houthi militias last year, at upcoming peace talks in Geneva, Yemen’s Information Minister Moammer Al-Eryan said on Wednesday.

Saleh, for decades the most powerful politician in troubled Yemen, was killed by Iran-backed Houthis in December.

President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi will demand the militias release Saleh’s body via a government delegation at the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, which open Thursday, said Al-Eryan. “This is an important message that all within (Saleh’s) General People’s Congress should take into consideration to turn the page of the past and move forward toward the future to restore the state,” he tweeted.

Eryan said the government will also demand the release of Saleh’s sons, believed to be detained by the Houthis.

According to one of his relatives, Saleh was buried in his village outside of Sanaa in a funeral attended by 20 people under the strict watch of the Houthis.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy for Yemen said Wednesday that “consultations” in Geneva between the warring parties offered a “flickering signal of hope” after years of conflict. 

“The people of Yemen … are desperately in need of a signal of hope. We would like to think that the work we will do together in these next days will begin to send a flickering signal of hope to them,” UN envoy Martin Griffiths said.

That meeting is expected to take place in a Geneva hotel, as are any other meetings that might happen on Thursday. 

“So we are not going to waste time, and we are looking forward to getting our friends from Sanaa here and participating fully in the consultations.”

Griffiths emphasized that the Geneva talks were “not formal negotiations,” but said they aimed to pave the way towards bringing the parties back to the negotiating table.

The talks also seek to put in place a range of so-called confidence-building measures, which could prisoner swaps and the vaccination of children, he said.

“There is a chance for some tangible progress,” he said, adding that he hoped to get the two sides to sit at the same table during the consultations, which are expected to last a couple of days.

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