- Associated Press - Monday, August 1, 2016

SANAA, Yemen (AP) - Yemen’s foreign minister said on Monday that his delegation is leaving Kuwait where the United Nations-mediated talks have been taking place for the past two months.

Abdul-Malik al-Mekhlafi told reporters that his delegation is not quitting the talks and that his government has approved a U.N.-proposed deal. He gave a deadline of Aug. 8 for the rival party of Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, to give their approval.

“The ball now is in the court of the Houthis,” he said, adding that his delegation agreed to the deal despite reservations.

The rebels have so far rejected the deal which forces them to hand over their weapons and withdraw from the cities within 45 days of signing the agreement.

U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed stressed that the delegation’s departure “is not a departure from the peace talks,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.

“He said he had agreed with the parties to keep the talks going until they agree on next steps in the coming days,” Haq said.

Cheikh Ahmed intends to have intensive meetings with the Houthi delegation on their reaction to the plan “and see what progress he can make with their side,” Haq said.

The Houthis and forces allied to the ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh seized the capital Sanaa in Sept. 2014, forcing the internationally-recognized government to flee the country. A Saudi-led coalition has conducted an extensive air campaign against the Houthis since March 2015, pushing them out of southern Yemen, but failing so far to dislodge them from Sanaa and the rest of the north.

The Houthis, whose delegation remained in Kuwait, insist on a political share in a new national unity government and they oppose President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, demanding to transfer his authorities to the new government.

A member of the Houthi delegation, Hamza al-Houthi said, “The solution must be comprehensive and include all the political and humanitarian issues.”

Yahia Dawed, head of the Houthi-allied General People’s Congress, accused Saudi Arabia of manipulating the talks, adding, “The Saudis are a main player in the talks and they have to decide: do you want peace or war?”

This is the second round of talks to be held in Kuwait. The first round started in April and failed to make progress amid fundamental disputes over the agenda. A truce declared by the U.N. in April has been repeatedly breached by both sides.

Fighting has been ongoing in several provinces including the surroundings of Sanaa and the besieged western city of Taiz.

Meanwhile, the Houthis have carried out cross-border attacks into Saudi Arabia in recent days, killing border guards and civilians. On Monday, Saudi Arabia said that four family members were killed by a cross-border missile from Yemen that struck their home in the southern region of Jizan.

The attack comes one day after the Saudi-led military coalition said seven Saudi border guards, including an officer, were killed in a cross-border clash with militias.

The Houthis say that the coalition has been violating the ceasefire and most recently carried out airstrikes targeting a border town called Harath on Monday.

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