Yemen's peace talks suspended amid fight near Sana'a

UN-sponsored talks for establishing peace in Yemen ended on Saturday without a breakthrough amid fighting between government forces and rebels near the capital Sana'a.

The negotiations started in Kuwait in April between representatives from Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Iran-allied Houthi rebels with the aim of ending a war of more than a year in the impoverished country.

UN envoy on Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Saturday announced a month-long suspension of the talks, but denied their failure.

"The consultations will resume within a month in a place that will be specified later," the Mauritanian diplomat said at press conference in Kuwait.

"The consultations did not fail. There is a solid ground on which we'll build," he added without elaborating.

Negotiators from both sides are committed to reaching a "peaceful solution" to Yemen's crisis, Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

However, Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi, who leads the government's team at the talks, said earlier on Saturday that the negotiations had ended without any progress.

He blamed what he called "intransigence" of rebels for the deadlock.

"The government delegation offered everything for peace ... [while]the coup plotters worked to consolidate their coup," al-Mikhlafi added in a tweet, referring to rebels.

There was no comment from the Houthis.

The reported impasse comes as government forces said Saturday they had started a major offensive, backed by a Saudi-led air coalition, against the Houthis in the Nehm area, some 40 kilometres east of rebel-held Sana’a.

A pro-government militiaman said the forces seized several "strategic" outposts from rebels in Nehm hours after the start of the attack.

"The advance by the army and resistance forces came after fierce confrontations with the Houthi insurgents and their allies," Abdullah al-Shandaqi, spokesman for the self-styled militia Sana’a Resistance, added in a statement.

At least 23 rebels and 12 government fighters were killed in the battle, according to him.

His claims could not be independently verified.

The Yemen conflict has intensified since March 2015, when the mostly Shiite rebels advanced on the southern city of Aden, prompting Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni allies to start an air campaign in Yemen against the group.

Saudi Arabia fears that the rebels will give its regional rival, Shiite Iran, a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Last update: Sat, 06/08/2016 - 16:59

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