Yemen peace talks descend into fistfight in Geneva

Melee underlines division which has thwarted UN truce efforts

A representative of South Yemen throw a shoe at members of a rebel delegation during clashes at a press conference on Yemen peace talks in Geneva. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

A representative of South Yemen throw a shoe at members of a rebel delegation during clashes at a press conference on Yemen peace talks in Geneva. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

 

A fistfight erupted on the sidelines of peace talks in Geneva on Thursday between supporters of different warring factions in Yemen, underlining the divisions that have thwarted United Nations efforts to broker a truce in the near three-month conflict.

Yemeni opponents of the Houthi forces that drove the government into exile interrupted a news conference by Houthi officials, throwing shoes and insulting them as “criminals” and “dogs” who were “killing the children of south Yemen”.

A Saudi-led coalition has been launching air raids against the Iran-allied Houthis since March in a campaign to restore the exiled government and back its armed supporters.

The peace talks are struggling to bring together the rival factions and, with discussions due to conclude today or tomorrow, delegates have reported little progress.

Hamza Al-Houthi, head of the Houthi delegation to the talks, stayed composed throughout the brawl that began when a woman in a pink headscarf went to the podium and threw a shoe at him, a particular insult in the Arab world.

A fistfight then broke out between Houthis and protesters before the latter were escorted out.

Reuters