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US Welcomes Start of Yemen Peace Talks


FILE - Yemeni security forces gather outside an elderly care home after it was attacked by gunmen in the port city of Aden, Yemen. Negotiations are being held in Kuwait and were due to start on Monday.

The United States welcomed the start of the Yemen peace talks that began Thursday in Kuwait, after being delayed when opposition delegations stayed home complaining of cease-fire violations by pro-government forces.

"We understand that all parties now have arrived in Kuwait and are set to begin the talks," said State Department spokesman John Kirby, adding that the U.S. believes the recent cessation of hostilities in Yemen has "largely held."

Kirby said the U.S. "continues to believe these talks are vitally important for Yemen right now. We urge the parties to fully engage in good faith in order to end the military conflict immediately and to return to a peaceful political process."

The negotiations are being held in Kuwait and were due to start Monday. Members of the Houthi rebels and the party of former Yemeni leader Ali Abdullah Saleh, which backs the rebels, left Yemen on Wednesday after getting assurances the cease-fire would be respected.

Focus of talks

The U.N. envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has said the process will focus on the withdrawal of militias and armed groups, the handover of heavy weapons to the government, interim security arrangements, the restoration of state institutions, and the creation of a special committee on prisoners and detainees.

The Houthis have controlled Yemen's capital, Sana'a, since seizing it in September 2014. Six months later, they marched south in an offensive that led to their capture of the port city of Aden, and sent President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi fleeing to Saudi Arabia.

Hadi and his government have since returned to Aden, aided by a yearlong bombing campaign by a Saudi-led coalition that helped push back the Houthis. The conflict has left more than 6,400 people dead and millions of people in need of humanitarian aid.