Yemen talks put on hold as rebels delay arrival

The start of UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen`s government and rebels was delayed Monday after the insurgent delegation failed to show up in Kuwait claiming truce violations.

Kuwait City: The start of UN-brokered peace talks between Yemen`s government and rebels was delayed Monday after the insurgent delegation failed to show up in Kuwait claiming truce violations.

The talks aim to bring an end to 13 months of fighting that have devastated already-impoverished Yemen and are taking place after a ceasefire came into effect one week ago but was repeatedly breached.

Representatives of the internationally-recognised government as well as the Iran-backed rebel Huthis and their allies -- loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh -- were supposed to gather in Kuwait for a new round of peace negotiations.

A government delegation led by Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi was in Kuwait on Monday awaiting the arrival of the rebel delegation.

"Until now we don`t have information except that the (rebel) Huthi delegation is late," a source close to the government delegation in Kuwait City told AFP.

"They haven`t left Sanaa and are procrastinating," the source said, adding that the start of talks had been pushed back.

Speaking from Yemen`s rebel-held capital, a source from the Huthi political bureau confirmed to AFP that the rebels, expected in Kuwait alongside representatives from Saleh`s General People`s Congress party, had not left Sanaa.

"They did not go to the Kuwait talks because of the continued Saudi aggression on Yemen," said the source who requested anonymity. "Saudi Arabia did not commit to the truce."

Saudi Arabia is leading a military coalition of Arab Sunni states which have been supporting pro-government forces with air strikes, weapons and troops since March last year.

The ceasefire has been violated numerous times.

Fighting in Nahm, northeast of rebel-held Sanaa, killed nine pro-government soldiers on Sunday.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived Sunday in Kuwait, where he spoke of "much tension" still gripping the war-torn country, KUNA news agency reported.

But briefing the UN Security Council on Friday, Cheikh Ahmed said Yemen has "never been so close to peace"."The path to peace might be difficult, but it is workable," he said, cautioning however that violations of the ceasefire in place since April 11 "threaten the success of the peace talks".

But the rebels, the government and coalition backing it, as well as the United Nations, have avoided talk of the ceasefire collapsing, as happened with three earlier truces.

Cheikh Ahmed on Sunday said the situation was generally stable across Yemen despite "some violations" of the ceasefire, KUNA reported.

And the coalition had described ceasefire violations as "minor".

And in contrast with previous ceasefires, joint committees of rebel and loyalist forces were formed to monitor compliance.

Previous attempts have failed to stop the war, which the UN says has killed more than 6,400 people, forced almost 2.8 million from their homes and raised regional tensions.

Among the issues to be tackled in Kuwait are security arrangements, the withdrawal of militias and armed groups, the handover of heavy weapons and the release of detainees.

Mikhlafi has urged the Huthis to surrender their arms, reported the government-run website.

"We will do all we can to alleviate the suffering of our people," Mikhlafi said in remarks published at the weekend, adding however that "we do not expect a full agreement at this stage" but rather a step forward.

"We can expect a hard time" in Kuwait, said April Longley Alley of International Crisis Group.

The conflict in the impoverished nation has raised Middle East tensions between Sunni Arab states and Shiite powerhouse Iran.

The United Nations has meanwhile raised alarm over the growing influence of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

The ceasefire does not apply to jihadists, including the Islamic State group, which have strengthened their hold in the south.

A previous round of talks in January failed to make any headway.