Yemen talks extended, Saudi soldiers killed

Saber mountain explodes after Saudi-led air strikes in Taiz city, Yemen. (AP)

The Saudi-led coalition has confirmed the death seven of its military in the ongoing fight against the Houthi militia on Saturday. The dead were all Saudi military: an officer and five other soldiers. They died while trying to stop Houthi militias from infiltrating across the border, a spokesman said.

Meanwhile the head of the Saudi-led coalition added that a helicopter was used in fighting back members of the Houthi militia, preventing their advance across the border into Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi-led coalition bombed Houthi fighters in air attacks from Yemen seeking to infiltrate Saudi Arabia on Saturday, killing tens of Houthi militiamen, security sources said.

The bombing took place on the Yemeni side of the border close to the Saudi city of Najran, they said. Clashes were also seen in the northwestern Yemeni town of Haradh which borders the kingdom, witnesses told Reuters.

The flare-up in fighting was one of the worst since peace talks began in Kuwait in April between Yemen's government and the Houthis to end a 16-month conflict that has left more than 6,400 people dead, nearly half of them civilians, and displaced more than 2.5 million.

A truce that began in April has slowed the momentum of fighting, but violence continues almost daily.

Prospects for progress in the talks dimmed further this week when Houthi rebels and their allies in the political party of a militarily powerful former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, announced they had decided to form a political council to unilaterally rule the country.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations Yemen envoy, said the move gravely violated UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which calls on the Houthis "to refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transition in Yemen".

In Kuwait the UN-brokered Yemen peace talks have been extended for one week following a request by the UN special envoy, the foreign ministry of host nation Kuwait said on Saturday.

The negotiations have been extended until August 7, according to a foreign ministry statement cited by the official KUNA news agency. They would have ended without result on Saturday after the government delegation decided to pull out.

United Nations envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed held talks with both delegations on Saturday and proposed a framework for a comprehensive settlement.

“I met today with both delegations (and) suggested a one-week extension to the talks,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed wrote on Twitter.

He said he also proposed a “framework for a solution to the crisis in Yemen”, without elaborating.

Sources from the two delegations told AFP the proposed settlement is based on the withdrawal of rebels from territory they occupied in 2014, the handover of weapons and a return of state institutions.

Yemen’s government delegation to the talks had said it was planning on leaving Kuwait later Saturday after the rebels and their allies announced the creation of a council to run the country.

“There can be no more talks after the new coup,” delegation spokesman Mohammad al-Emrani told AFP on Friday.

The Houthi militia and the General People’s Congress of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday jointly announced setting up a 10-member “supreme political council”.

Its job will be to “manage state affairs politically, militarily, economically, administratively, socially and in security", a statement said.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the ambassadors of 18 other nations backing peace in Yemen also called for a resumption of peace talks in separate statements.

They also condemned the formation of the “supreme political council”. Indirect negotiations in Kuwait since April have failed to make headway. Most of the discussions focused on the type of the transition government to run Yemen.

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Last Update: 06:47 KSA 09:47 - GMT 06:47
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