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US calls for end to Yemen hostilities and resumption of peace talks

DUBAI: The United States has called for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen and the resumption of vigorous efforts for a political solution to the crisis.

The United Nations on Wednesday responded saying it aims to re-launch Yemen peace talks “within a month.” The talks are expected to take place in Sweden.

The call is the latest effort to end the war, which was triggered when the Iran-backed Houthi militia seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and forced the internationally recognized government to flee.

An Arab coalition including Saudi Arabia and the UAE intervened in early 2015 after the militia seized Aden. Pro-government forces then drove the Houthis from much of the south of the country

Senior US official called for a ceasefire to take hold within 30 days, but it also placed blame on Iran for fueling the conflict.

“The United States calls on all parties to support UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen based on agreed references,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

“The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen.”

Pompeo called on parties to start consultations in November, under the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, in a third country.

The consultations would aim for a possible adoption and implementation of “confidence-building measures to address the underlying issues of the conflict, the demilitarization of borders, and the concentration of all large weapons under international observations.

“A cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track will help ease the humanitarian crisis as well,” the US state secretary added.

“It is a time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction,” Pompeo said.

The last attempt at peace talks in Geneva collapsed in September when the Houthis failed to attend.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Tuesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE are ready for talks.

“We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we are going to do it some time in the future,” Mattis said at the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

Mattis called for demilitarization of Yemen's border with Saudi Arabia “so that the Saudis and the Emirates do not have to worry about missiles coming into their homes and cities and airports.”

He also said measures should be taken to “ensure that all Iranian-supplied missiles to the Houthis" are put under “international watch.”

Mattis put primary blame on Iran. He said its proxies and surrogate forces are fueling the conflict.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths welcomed the calls for an immediate resumption of talks.

“I urge all concerned parties to seize this opportunity to engage constructively with our current efforts to swiftly resume political consultations to agree on a framework for political negotiations,” he said.

“We remain committed to bring the Yemeni parties to the negotiations table within a month.”

Sweden's foreign minister said Wednesday that Griffiths has asked Sweden to host such talks.

The move was backed by British Prime Minister Theresa May.

The conflict in Yemen has sparked the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with the UN estimating that three-quarters of the population — or 22 million people — in need of immediate humanitarian support. Nearly 10,000 people have died in the conflict since March 2015.

The fighting has become focussed on the port of Hodeidah held by the Houthis. On Tuesday, pro-government forces made significant gains on several frontline positions near the port.
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