Yemen truce starts as warring sides meet in Switzerland

Seven-day ceasefire called by Saudi-led force takes effect, while warring sides hold closed-door talks in Switzerland.

    Yemen truce starts as warring sides meet in Switzerland
    Houthi forces are fighting a coalition of Arab states seeking to drive the rebels from the capital Sanaa [Abdullah/Reuters]

    A ceasefire has taken effect in Yemen after more than a year of fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels in which thousands of people were killed.

    Fighting raged on Tuesday shortly before the 09:00 GMT start of the ceasefire, which was called by the Saudi-led coalition battling the Iran-backed rebels.

    Coalition warplanes bombed rebel positions in Taiz, as Houthis attempted to advance towards the loyalist-held northern neighbourhood of al-Zonooj, a military official told AFP news agency.


    Arab coalition pushes Yemen ceasefire back after attack


    Warplanes also bombed rebel positions south of Sanaa overnight on Monday, witnesses said.

    The coalition, which launched an air campaign against the Shia Houthi rebels in March, said the ceasefire would go ahead at the request of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

    But it warned that it "reserves the right to respond in case of any violation".

    Talks in Switzerland

    Hadi has declared his government's intention to have the seven-day truce to coincide with talks opening in Switzerland and to be "renewed automatically if the other party commits to it", the coalition statement said.

    A Yemeni presidential statement said the proposed ceasefire "comes out of keenness to grab any chance to achieve peace, to reduce the suffering of our people in Yemen and to end bloodshed".

    A lull in fighting is sorely needed in the Arabian Peninsula's poorest nation, where the UN says an estimated 80 percent of the population requires humanitarian aid.

    Armed groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, have exploited the violence, gaining ground and carrying out deadly attacks against both sides in the conflict.

    Yemen's conflict pits pro-government forces backed by the coalition against the Houthis and renegade troops loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    The rebel forces have yet to say if they will abide by the ceasefire.

    Previous UN efforts have failed to narrow differences, and past truces were broken.

    "We hope the [rebel] militias will commit to the ceasefire this time," said Mueen Abdulmalek, a member of the coalition-backed government's delegation at peace talks.

    A presidency official confirmed the truce was agreed by Hadi and Yemen's UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

    The build-up for the ceasefire was overshadowed by confusion over when it would begin.

    It had been due to take effect at midnight (21:00 GMT) on Monday but shortly before that the coalition announced its postponement after a rocket killed the head of Saudi special forces in Aden as well as an Emirati officer.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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