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Envoy: Yemen Truce, Peace Talks in April

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks at a press conference in Sana'a, Yemen, Jan. 10, 2016.

FILE - U.N. special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed speaks at a press conference in Sana'a, Yemen, Jan. 10, 2016.

The parties to the conflict in Yemen have agreed to a cessation of hostilities and a new round of peace talks next month.

This nationwide truce will begin at midnight local time on April 10, U.N. Special Envoy on Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said Wednesday. Face-to-face talks between the parties are scheduled to follow on April 18 in Kuwait.

“The talks aim to reach a comprehensive agreement, which will end the conflict and allow the resumption of inclusive political dialogue,” Cheikh Ahmed told reporters in New York.

He said the talks would be based on U.N. Security Council resolutions, which call for resolving the year-old conflict through political negotiations.

“The war in Yemen must be brought to an end before it does irreparable damage to the future of Yemen and the region,” the envoy said.

More than 6,000 people have been killed since a Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes last March in support of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled to Riyadh after Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sana’a, in September 2014.

Yemeni people inspect the damage after an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in Sana'a, Yemen, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.

Yemeni people inspect the damage after an airstrike by Saudi-led coalition in Sana'a, Yemen, Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016.

The envoy said the talks would focus on five key areas: the withdrawal of militias and armed groups, the handover of heavy weapons to the state, interim security arrangements, the restoration of state institutions and the resumption of inclusive political dialogue, and the creation of a special committee on prisoners and detainees.

Nation on the brink

The conflict has pushed the Arab World’s poorest nation to the brink. More than 2 million Yemenis have been displaced and more than 21 million people - 82 percent of the population – require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance.

Earlier this month, the United Nations appealed for $1.8 billion to meet Yemen’s humanitarian needs this year.

Calls for arms embargo

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch called on the United States, Britain, France and others to suspend weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, saying Saudi air strikes have killed hundreds of civilians.

“By continuing to sell weapons to a known violator that has done little to curtail its abuses, the U.S., the U.K. and France risk being complicit in unlawful civilian deaths,” said HRW’s Philippe Bolopion.

British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters his government does not support the idea of an arms embargo against ally Saudi Arabia.

“We support a political settlement, and the UK supports the Saudi-led coalition in bringing the legitimate government of Yemen back to Sana’a,” he said. “We encourage the parties to ensure that that can happen through the process that [envoy] Ismail has announced today,” he added.

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