Week-long Yemen ceasefire to coincide with peace talks: Minister

AFP , Tuesday 8 Dec 2015

Warring factions in Yemen are preparing to observe a week-long truce from December 15 while UN-mediated peace talks take place in Switzerland, Yemen's foreign minister said Tuesday.

"An agreement on a ceasefire between the government and the putschists should enter into force on December 15 with the start of negotiations," Abdel Malak al-Mekhlafi told AFP.

A source in the cabinet of Yemen's President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi said the truce would last seven days, as specified in a letter sent by Hadi to the UN Security Council.

Talks to ease fighting across Yemen have been stalled for months, with the conflict escalating since March when a pro-government coalition led by Saudi Arabia began bombarding Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

With the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country worsening, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said Monday that a swift halt to the fighting was imperative for those caught up in what has increasingly become a regional conflict.

Ahmed told reporters that three delegations would take part in talks likely to be held outside Geneva which will last "as long as it takes".

The delegations include representatives of Hadi's government, the Huthi rebels, and officials from the General People's Congress (GPC), who are loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Though not formally aligned, some GPC members have expressed support for the Huthis.

According to the cabinet source, the agreement reached ahead of talks calls on the rebels to "lift the seige of towns, allow the entry of humanitarian aid, and free military and political detainees".

The truce "will be supervised by the UN and could be extended if respected by the (rebels)," the source added.

There was no immediate confirmation from the rebels that they would abide by a ceasefire.

The United Nations says more than 5,700 people have been killed in Yemen, almost half of them civilians, since the Saudi-led air campaign began.

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