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February 22, 2019

UN aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks 'within a month'

UN aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks 'within a month'
'Popular Resistance Committees fighters, supporting forces loyal to Yemen's Saudi-backed government, take part in a graduation ceremony in Taez, on October 27, 2018' - By: AFP/File Ahmad AL-BASHA

The United Nations said Wednesday it aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks "within a month", shortly after the United States called for the warring parties to come to the negotiating table.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed calls for an immediate resumption of talks and a ceasefire in Yemen.

"I urge all concerned parties to seize this opportunity to engage constructively with our current efforts to swiftly resume political consultations to agree on a framework for political negotiations," he said in a statement.

"We remain committed to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month."

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are in a US-backed coalition fighting Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, are ready for talks.

"We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we are going to do it some time in the future," Mattis said at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

"We need to be doing this in the next 30 days," he added.

Mattis said that the US is calling for the warring sides to meet with Griffiths in Sweden in November.

British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the US position on Wednesday and said Griffiths had spoken with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt the previous evening.

"They agreed that the UK will continue to encourage all parties to agree to deescalation, and to that lasting political deal, which will ensure that any ceasefire will hold in the long-term," May told parliament.

- New coalition air strikes -

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict between embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the United Nations, and the Huthis in 2015.

The coalition has been waging an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen aimed at pushing the Huthis back, but the rebels still hold the key port city of Hodeida and the capital Sanaa.

After UN-backed talks collapsed in September, the coalition announced it was relaunching an assault on Hodeida, whose port serves as an entry point for more than 70 percent of imports into the impoverished country.

Yemeni government officials said Tuesday that the coalition has deployed 10,000 new troops to the Red Sea coast, ahead of a new offensive on Hodeida "within days".

Some 110 rebels have been killed in air strikes in Hodeida province in the past three days, including 23 killed on Wednesday, three medics from different hospitals in the area said.

Two military officials with pro-government forces said three air strikes were conducted Wednesday, after the US call for negotiations, while 15 have been carried out since Monday.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed since 2015 and the country now stands at the brink of famine, with more than 22 million Yemenis -- three quarters of the population -- in need of humanitarian assistance.

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