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UN Yemen envoy renews bid to revive peace talks

Ismail Ould Cheikh said he's preparing for a new round of talks [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 November, 2016

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The UN envoy for Yemen has announced a new bid for peace talks between the government and Houthi rebels, after previous rounds of talks and ceasefire attempts failed.

The UN envoy for Yemen has announced a new bid for peace talks between the government and rebels, after the latest ceasefire failed to end the 20-month conflict.

The peace efforts by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed came as dozens were killed in fighting over the weekend.

Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he was heading to Riyadh and Kuwait "to prepare for a new round" of talks, as he left Muscat late Saturday after discussions with representatives of Yemen's Houthi rebels and their allies.

Riyadh has been the base of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi since the rebels forced him to flee in March 2015 and prompted Saudi Arabia to lead an Arab coalition in a military campaign against the insurgents.

The UN envoy was to meet Hadi "within two days" in the southern Yemeni city of Aden to receive the government's response to his peace proposals, Foreign Minister Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi told AFP.

Hadi flew to Aden on Saturday for a surprise visit to the port city which is serving as Yemen's temporary capital since coalition-backed loyalists recaptured it from the rebels.

Ould Cheikh Ahmed, quoted by Oman's official ONA news agency, said he found "a lot of seriousness" in talks with representatives of the Houthis and their allies from the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The envoy also said he had been in contact with US Secretary of State John Kerry who "sees a historic chance to achieve peace in Yemen".

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A previous round of peace talks held in Kuwait collapsed in August.

A 48-hour ceasefire declared by the coalition ended last Monday with little success in reducing violence in the war-torn country.

Both parties traded blame for the numerous violations of the ceasefire that came into effect after Kerry intervened.

It was the latest international attempt to end a conflict which the United Nations says has killed more than 10,000 people and wounded nearly 37,000 since March last year.

The Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and other parts of the impoverished country in September 2014.

A Yemeni official said Sunday 12 civilians were killed when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit two makeshift wooden houses sheltering displaced families in the western province of Hodeida.

The official said the raid late on Saturday had apparently targeted the two houses "mistakenly", adding that a rebel position 300 metres (yards) away was untouched.

The coalition has been strongly criticised over the high number of civilians killed in its airstrikes.

In northwest Yemen, the sources said, 40 soldiers and 22 rebels have been killed since Friday in heavy clashes for control of a road linking the Red Sea port city of Midi and nearby Haradh.

Elsewhere, two women were killed in rebel bombing of the southwestern city of Taiz, military officials said.

Clashes raged on the outskirts of the flashpoint city, killing four rebels and three government soldiers late on Saturday, they said.

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