UN: Progress being made in Yemen peace talks

UN envoy to Yemen says the thorniest issues in the conflict have been discussed and that a resolution could be ‘very close’

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Peace talks aimed at ending fighting in Yemen are making “incredible progress” and that a halt in fighting is largely holding, the UN envoy for Yemen said.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said at a forum in the Qatari capital, Doha, on Sunday that a cessation of hostilities is holding around 80 to 90 percent, even if pockets of violence continue.

Cheikh added that the drop in fighting has allowed much-needed aid to make its way to areas affected by the fighting in the impoverished Arab country.

He is also hopeful that most of the thorniest issues in the conflict have been discussed during peace talks taking place in Kuwait and that a resolution could be “very close.”

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources told Al Arabiya News Channel that the Yemeni government’s delegation has received a letter from the UN envoy on Sunday emphasizing that solving the conflict would be based on legitimacy, the Gulf countries’ initiative and the UN Security Council resolution number 2216.

The resolution – adopted in April last year – requires the Iran-backed Houthi militias to surrender their weapons and withdraw from seized territory.

In a related story, Yemeni troops killed 13 militants in a raid outside the southern city of Mukalla on Sunday in which two soldiers also died, the army said, extending a struggle to restore security in an area ruled until last month by al-Qaeda.

“Special forces and the army gained complete control over the site backed up by helicopters from the Arab coalition, which dealt with groups of terrorists spread around the area who were fleeing,” an army statement said.

“A search confirmed that these fighters were about to carry out a surprise terrorist attack on some military command centers at dawn this morning.”

A security official said the fighters were from al-Qaeda.

Before being forced out, al-Qaeda militants took advantage of more than a year of war between the Houthis and supporters of the internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to carve out a mini-state stretching across much of the Arabian Peninsula country’s southern coast, including Mukalla.

Police have opened fire to disperse dozens of Aden residents protesting power cuts in Yemen’s second city, killing one, a local government official said Sunday.

“A resident was killed and others were wounded” by police gunfire during the late Saturday protests, said the official who requested anonymity.

Dozens of people took to the streets in several Aden neighborhoods protesting a lack of electricity supply as temperatures soared to almost 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the coastal city.

Residents blocked roads, erected barricades and set tyres ablaze, prompting police intervention, witnesses said.

Most of the city’s electricity installations were destroyed during fighting between pro-government forces and Iran-backed rebels last year.

The Houthis who seized Sanaa in September 2014, expanded south and entered Aden in March last year, but loyalists backed by the Saudi-led coalition pushed them out in July.

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher on Wednesday accused the Huthi rebels and their allies of bringing the country's economy to the brink of collapse.

Fighting has killed more than 6,400 people, displaced about 2.8 million and left 82 percent of Yemen’s population in need of aid, the United Nations says.

(With agencies)

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