Humanitarian ceasefire expected in Yemen

A Yemeni government tank firing at Houthi positions last week. Forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by air strikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition, have been locked for nine months in a civil war with the Houth
A Yemeni government tank firing at Houthi positions last week. Forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by air strikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition, have been locked for nine months in a civil war with the Houthis, who rule the capital Sanaa and other cities. PHOTO: REUTERS

DUBAI • Yemen's warring parties are expected to announce a humanitarian ceasefire within days before UN-sponsored talks to end a civil war that has killed nearly 6,000 people, an official from President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government said yesterday.

The United Nations special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed has met Mr Hadi in Aden and Houthi officials in the Omani capital, Muscat, with a proposed agenda for the talks. Mr Hadi's foreign minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi said the talks - to be held in Switzerland - will start on Dec 15.

"The Houthis have approved the agenda blueprint," an official in Mr Hadi's office told Reuters. "Within days, a humanitarian ceasefire will be declared and steps to free prisoners and lifting the siege on the cities would begin."

Forces loyal to Mr Hadi, backed by air strikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition, have been locked for nine months in a civil war with the Houthis, who rule the capital Sanaa and other cities.

The Houthi spokesman, in a posting on his Facebook page, confirmed that his group had discussed "the venue and the date for the talks planned for the middle of this month" with the UN envoy.

"Ways for a ceasefire and subsequent confidence-building steps were also discussed, and we expressed our openness to conduct a responsible and serious dialogue," the spokesman, Mr Mohammed Abdul-Salam, added, without providing details.

Previous UN-mediated negotiations to end the conflict through dialogue have failed as battles continue to rage across the country and Saudi-led warplanes bomb positions of the Houthi group and its Yemeni army allies.

The proposed agenda for the talks stipulates immediate confidence-building measures, including the release of the Yemeni defence minister captured by the Houthis in March, lifting a siege of cities and other population centres, and suspending recruitment of children to fight in the conflict.

Mr Hadi's supporters say Houthi forces are besieging the city of Taiz, north of Aden. The Houthis say the Saudi-led coalition is effectively putting much of the country under siege by closing off its air space and sea ports.

The UN says that at least 5,700 people, nearly half of them civilians, have been killed and 2.3 million displaced since the Saudi-led coalition began conducting air strikes.

The peace talks would be aimed at implementing a UN Security Council resolution adopted in April, which provides for the restoration of the Yemeni government and withdrawal of Houthi forces from the cities.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2015, with the headline 'Humanitarian ceasefire expected in Yemen'. Print Edition | Subscribe