UN confirms Yemen peace talks to begin June 14 in Geneva

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United Nations (AFP) – The United Nations announced Saturday that peace talks between Yemeni rebels and the government will begin in Geneva on June 14.

The talks had been initially scheduled for May 28 but were postponed after the government demanded that Houthi rebels first withdraw from seized territory.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon “reiterates his urgent call on all Yemeni parties to engage in these consultations in good faith and without pre-conditions in the interest of all Yemeni people,” said a statement from his spokesman.

Yemen has been engulfed in turmoil since the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa in September and advanced on the southern city of Aden, forcing President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition has carried out air strikes on Yemen since March 26 to push back the Houthis and restore Hadi’s authority. More than 2,000 people have died since the air campaign began.

In announcing the talks, Ban also repeated his call for a renewed humanitarian pause in fighting following last month’s truce.

“Such assistance is of paramount and pressing importance because the suffering of the Yemeni population, as a result of the continued conflict is increasing dramatically,” the secretary-general said.

The talks brokered by UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed would be aimed at securing a ceasefire, agreeing on a withdrawal plan for the Houthis and stepping up deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The Security Council this week heard a report from new UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien, who described Yemen’shumanitarian crisis as “catastrophic,” with 20 million civilians in need of aid — 80 percent of the population.

The Houthis fired a Scud missile at Saudi territory Saturday, a day after their rebel allies killed four Saudi soldiers in cross-border attacks.

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