A seven-day ceasefire in Yemen is to start on Monday, a day before UN-sponsored peace talks in Switzerland, officials on both sides of a war that has killed nearly 6,000 people said.
Yemen’s foreign minister, Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, who will lead President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s delegation to the UN talks, said that fighting would stop on “the evening of December 14”.
“We are going to the talks with serious intentions and we hope that the other side abides by that,” he told the Reuters news agency.A spokesperson for the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels confirmed the agreement to cease hostilities.
“Based on what had been agreed upon, there will be a halt of the aggression on the 14th of this month,” Mohammed Abdul-Salam told a news conference in the capital Sanaa.
The Houthis have been locked for nine months in a civil war with forces loyal to Hadi’s exiled government, who are backed by air strikes and ground forces from a Saudi Arabia-led coalition.
The UN agency for children, UNICEF, has said that nearly half of those killed in the war so far have been civilians, and that 637 of them have been children.
Houthi forces control most of the northern part of the country and see the Arab alliance’s military operations as an act of aggression.
But the alliance says it intervened in response to a request by Hadi.
‘A real chance’
The UN invited Hadi’s government and the Houthis to peace negotiations after the two sides agreed on a draft agenda and ground rules.
A previous round of peace talks in June failed to reach an agreement, with both sides accusing each other of failing to compromise. In July, the two sides observed a five-day ceasefire, though they traded accusations of violating the truce.
This time “there is a real chance for a breakthrough”, according to Emirati analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, who believes “there will be concessions from both sides”. The United Arab Emirates is part of the Arab coalition and has lost dozens of troops to the conflict.
“Gulf Arab states have reached a point where they are convinced it is about time a peaceful solution should be given a better chance,” he told the AFP news agency.