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Hopes Fade As Yemen Peace Talks Falter

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Talk to broker a cease-fire in Yemen have failed. The U.N. envoy who mediated between the Houthi rebels and those loyal to the exiled President Hadi called it a matter of time until an agreement is reached. But no date's been set for further talks, and the humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to worsen. The United Nations has requested $1.6 billion in emergency aid for a country where citizens do not have clean drinking water or sanitation and dengue fever and malaria have broken out. We're joined now by Hisham Al-Omeisy, political analyst and activist in the capital, Sana'a. Thanks very much for being with us.

HISHAM AL-OMEISY: Thank you for having me, Scott.

SIMON: And do you agree it's just a matter of time before there's an agreement?

AL-OMEISY: Unfortunately, I don't. It's going to take a lot more than just time. There's mass disagreement between the various political factions that have been meeting in Geneva. There is no starting point. There's no common ground for them to start talking. So when the U.N. envoy says it's a matter of time, what he actually means is not just a couple weeks. What he means is a couple months, or it could also extend to a couple of years.

A lot of people are very skeptical of the talks. The government, before even going to Geneva, voiced their concern that they're not going to Geneva to negotiate or deal. They just wanted to go to Geneva to make sure that the Houthis will comply when the U.N. see a resolution. So to begin with, the political parties were in Geneva not to talk, not for dialogue, not to negotiate. They were there for blinking contests.

SIMON: And what's the mood there in the capital?

AL-OMEISY: A lot of people are depressed 'cause pretty much everybody was hoping that there's going to be some sort of a truce, especially now that it's the month of Ramadan. It is the holy month for four weeks where people fast. People - they don't actually have food to begin with. But it's a religious month where people fast, so we were hoping for some sort of a cease-fire, some sort of a truce where the blockade will be lifted so that the aid will come in, so that the commercial vessels now stuck at the seaports will be allowed to move in. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, so we're in dire need of those commercial vessels to be allowed into the country. Unfortunately, the Geneva talks ended without the lifting of the blockade, without a truce being agreed upon.

SIMON: We should explain to our listeners that blockade has been led by Saudi naval forces to keep weapons out of the hands of rebels. You have said that you're both anti-Houthi and anti-airstrikes. How do you solve one problem without the other?

AL-OMEISY: Well, it's kind of difficult. Unfortunately, you cannot solve one without the other. Both need to stop. The Houthis need to stop expanding to other reasons of the country, and the Saudi need to stop their bombardment and their airstrikes and also lift the blockade. In places like Aden, for instance - Aden is suffering from both things - from Saudi airstrikes, which is killing civilians. Yesterday, a Saudi airstrike hit a bus of civilians trying to flee Aden. They killed 31 people. At the same time, there was another bus which was attacked by Houthis, and 17 people were killed. So they have it from both sides - both the Saudis - the Saudi-led coalition - and the Houthis. And that's why you have people like me who are anti-both sides.

SIMON: Hisham Al-Omeisy, an analyst and activist in Yemen. Thanks so much for being with us.

AL-OMEISY: Thank you for having me, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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