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Yemen's Houthis agree to talks if Riyadh halts bombing

Yemens Houthis agree to talks if Riyadh halts bombing

Sanaa: Yemen's Shia Houthi group has agreed with the visiting UN envoy to resume UN-brokered talks as long as the Saudi-led air campaign is halted, government officials have said.

According to an information ministry official, representatives of the Houthi group and former president Ali Abdullah Saleh said they were ready to resume the UN-brokered talks after the alliance suspended air strikes, adding that they believed Geneva, instead of Riyadh, should be picked to host the talks, Xinhua news agency reported on Thursday.

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, left Sanaa on Thursday after his first visit to Yemen since he was appointed two weeks ago.

During his two-day visit to Sanaa, the envoy met with leaders of the General People's Congress (GPC) party headed by Saleh, and representatives of the Houthis, according to reports of the country's official Saba news agency, now under the control of the Houthi group.

The report said Ismail Ould Cheikh discussed with the GPC and Houthis the possibility of prolonging the five-day humanitarian truce, and ways to resume the dialogue between the Yemeni parties, as well as means to facilitate humanitarian relief operations.

The GPC officials and Houthi representatives asked for UN intervention to halt the Saudi-led airstrikes as a condition for resuming the talks, Saba reported.

Despite the fact that the truce is still in effect, ground battles are still continuing in Yemen's southern provinces.

Saudi Arabia, along with eight other Arab states, have been bombing the Houthi group and forces loyal to former president Saleh since March 26, aiming to restore the rule of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The coalition forces suspended air raids on Tuesday night when a five-day humanitarian truce began to allow in humanitarian needs to be delivered to Yemen. However, battles between tribal fighters loyal to Hadi and the Houthis continued in southern provinces.

Residents in the southern provinces of Taiz, al-Dhalee and Aden, which have witnessed heavy fighting, said the warring sides had been shelling each other since the truce took place.

Saudi Arabia accused the Houthi group of violating the truce by shelling the Saudi city of Najran since Tuesday.

The humanitarian crisis emerged as residents in most of the cities, including capital Sanaa, are facing scarcity of food, water, fuel and electricity,.

Meanwhile, aid agencies have facilitated the arrival of aid for displaced Yemenis deprived of food, fuel and medicine by weeks of fighting and airstrikes.

Saba said on Tuesday that seven ships arrived at the Yemeni port of al-Hodayda carrying food, fuel and medicine, And two planes landed in the Sanaa international airport carrying medicine and medical teams.

The battles and airstrikes have left more than 1,400 people dead and about 4,000 people wounded, according to statistics provided by the Yemeni government.

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