Yemeni government says ready for UN talks with rebels

AFP , Monday 19 Oct 2015

Yemeni Government Talks with Rebels
United Nations envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed steps out of a plane upon arrival at the international airport of Sanaa, Yemen May 29, 2015. (Photo: Reuters)

The Yemeni government has agreed to participate in UN-sponsored talks with rebels aimed at ending the country's seven-month conflict, spokesman Rajeh Badi said Monday.

The United Nations is yet to announce the date and location for the proposed talks, but Badi told AFP that they are likely to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Yes, we have agreed to take part" in the talks, he said.

He confirmed over the weekend that the UN envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed had delivered an invitation to fresh talks with Iran-backed Shia Huthi rebels and its ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Badi declined to comment on whether the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi had been given any guarantees concerning its demand for the withdrawal of rebels from seized territories across Yemen.

UN Security Council Resolution 2216 calls for the withdrawal of rebel forces from territories they have captured and for them to lay down their arms.

Around 4,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March.

A first attempt to hold peace talks in Geneva in June between the pro-government forces and Huthi rebels collapsed without the warring parties even sitting down in the same room.

Last month, Hadi's government backed away from UN-sponsored talks that were to be held in Oman, insisting the rebels first withdraw from captured territory.

The Huthis overran the capital Sanaa unopposed in September 2014 and went on to battle for control of several regions, aided by renegade troops loyal to Saleh.

In July, loyalist forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition evicted the rebels from five southern provinces, and have since set their sights on Sanaa.

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