Middle East

Yemeni government says ready for UN talks with rebels

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

Saudi Arabia, which has since March led an Arab coalition air campaign against Shiite Huthi rebels in support of the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, welcomed Yemen's decision.

The United Nations is yet to announce the date and location for the proposed talks, but Badi told AFP that the likely venue was Geneva.

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

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

Badi declined to comment on whether Hadi's government had been given any guarantees over its demand for the withdrawal of rebels from territories seized across Yemen.

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

The Saudi foreign ministry "hailed" Hadi's declarated "readiness to resume political consultations", according to a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

It also described the reported decision of the Huthis to accept Resolution 2216 as a "step in the right direction towards ending the Yemen crisis".

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

A first attempt to hold peace talks in Geneva in June between 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 the Saudi-led coalition evicted the rebels from five southern provinces and have since set their sights on Sanaa.

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