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UPDATED: Yemen talks should resume Saturday after one-day halt: govt delegate

AFP , Friday 18 Dec 2015
Yemen
UN Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C) open with delegations from Sanaa at the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland December 15, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Yemen rebels have said they will resume peace talks in Switzerland on Saturday after snubbing a meeting Friday to protest violations of a ceasefire on the ground, a member of the opposing government delegation said.

The government delegation waited all day at a hotel in the small northwestern town of Magglingen for their rebel counterparts in the UN-brokered talks that began Tuesday, to no avail, a government delegation source told AFP.

"They did not show up," he said, requesting anonymity, adding that the rebels had "spent the day in intense communication with the UN special envoy" for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who persuaded them to return to the negotiating table.

"The talks should in principle resume Saturday," he said.

When asked about reports that the talks had faltered, UN spokesman Charbel Raji also told AFP "the peace talks are ongoing."

A member of the rebel delegation, which represents both the Iran-backed Houthi Shia rebels and renegade troops still loyal to wealthy ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, also assured AFP that the delegation had not pulled out of the talks.

Since Saudi-led airstrikes against the rebels began in March, more than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen -- about half of them civilians -- and more than 27,000 wounded, according to the UN.

Since the peace talks opened in Switzerland Tuesday, journalists have been held at bay and the UN has requested that the rival delegations refrain from making any comments to the media.

But the UN announced a first breakthrough in the talks Thursday, saying the sides had agreed to "allows for a full and immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance" in the flashpoint Yemeni city of Taez.

That statement also said issues on the agenda over the coming days would include developing a plan for a sustainable ceasefire and the release of prisoners.

But on Friday the rebel delegation said it had "protested" to the UN about violations of the ceasefire on the ground that began simultaneously with the peace talks on Tuesday and that on Friday appeared to have collapsed.

"We have protested because the UN is not capable to impose a ceasefire," delegation member Mohammed Abdel Salam was quoted as saying on the rebel's Twitter account, vowing that the rebels and their allies would "continue to defend the fatherland."

The member of the government delegation however maintained the protest was just a ploy.

"They only want to exert pressure and procrastinate," he said.

Yemeni forces and allied tribes on Friday captured the capital of northern Jawf province, the second rebel town to fall in 24 hours.

News of the seizure of Hazm came as the Saudi-led coalition that has fought rebels for months said two ballistic missiles were launched from Yemen towards Saudi Arabia, and cautioned it was close to abandoning the ceasefire agreement.

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