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UN Urges Humanitarian Truce in Yemen

United Nations General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon (C) speaks next to the U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on June 15, 2015, during a press conference at the U.N. offices in Geneva during the opening of Yemen peace talks.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon is calling for a truce among warring parties in Yemen during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The call comes as national reconciliation talks are set to begin in Geneva.

Saudi-led coalition warplanes launched airstrikes around the Yemeni capital Sana'a, as preparations for peace talks between warring Yemeni parties get underway in Geneva.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon told journalists earlier that “logistical” reasons had delayed the Houthi-led delegation, but that it was expected in Geneva.

Call for Ramadan truce

The secretary-general called for a month-long Ramadan cease-fire or truce, allowing warring parties what he called “political space.”

"I have emphasized the importance of having another humanitarian pause at least two weeks," he said. "Ramadan begins in another two days. Ramadan traditionally is a period where people pray for peace, reflection, harmony, reconciliation. So, the people of Yemen should be able to enjoy this kind of peace.”

Ban urged the warring factions to implement what he called “local cease-fires,” in different parts of the country, leading later to a national cease-fire.

“While the parties bicker, Yemen burns," he said. "The parties have a responsibility to end the fighting and begin a real process of peace and reconciliation. The international community has a responsibility to fully support that effort. We must do so above all for the people of Yemen, where 80 percent of the population is now in need of humanitarian assistance. We do not have a moment to lose. In Yemen's case, the ticking clock is a time bomb. The fighting is giving new strength to some of the world's most ruthless terrorist groups.”

Yemen's Acting Foreign Minister Riyadh Yassin, who is loyal to internationally recognized President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi, who is now in exile in Saudi Arabia, told Arab media his government is not opposed to a cease-fire in Yemen.

He says his government is not refusing a humanitarian truce, but claims the Houthis took advantage of a previous truce to step up destruction and killing and move their missiles in order to hit Saudi Arabia. He insists he is ready to discuss implementation of a temporary truce if the Houthis begin pulling out of major cities and provinces.

Indirect talks planned

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV reported U.N. special envoy Ismail Ould Sheikh Ahmed is expecting to conduct indirect talks between the various Yemeni parties, which are due to remain in separate rooms.

Arab media reports the Houthis and their Yemeni allies had captured the town of Hazm, capital of Jowf province, in the leadup to Monday's UN-sponsored peace talks.

The TV also reported most of Yemen's traditional political parties appear to be divided between supporters and opponents of the Houthi rebels. But the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hezb al Islah and the Salafi party fully support exiled President Hadi.

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