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Yemen rebels, govt agree to peace talks

AFP  |  Sanaa 

Huthi Shiite rebels and Yemen's exiled government agreed today to attend UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva aimed at ending weeks of war that have cost more than 2,000 lives.

The Geneva meeting, provisionally set for June 14, would be the first significant effort to stop the fighting, which has led to what the United Nations called a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

A Saudi-led coalition has been bombing the Iran-backed rebels and their allies for 10 weeks, raising tensions between Riyadh and regional rival Iran, while rights groups have expressed concerns about the extent of civilian casualties.

"We accepted the invitation of the United Nations to go to the negotiating table in Geneva without preconditions," said Daifallah al-Shami, a senior member of the rebels' political wing.

Speaking to AFP, he added that the rebels "will not accept conditions" from other parties.

Ezzedine al-Isbahi, information minister of the Yemeni government exiled in the Saudi capital, said it would also send a delegation to Switzerland.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told the Security Council Wednesday that the government would attend but that he was still in consultation with the rebels.

"The government agreed to participate in the Geneva talks," Isbahi told AFP.

He said the meeting would involve "consultations on implementing Resolution 2216" which the Security Council passed in April. It imposed an arms embargo on the Huthi rebels and demanded they relinquish seized territory.

The negotiations would try to secure a ceasefire, agreement on a Huthi withdrawal plan and increased deliveries of humanitarian aid, according to diplomats who attended the closed-door Security Council briefing.

First Published: Fri, June 05 2015. 23:22 IST