UN envoy for Yemen announces new bid for peace talks
MUSCAT - The UN envoy for Yemen has announced a new bid for peace talks between the government and rebels, after the latest ceasefire failed to end the 20-month conflict.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he was heading to Riyadh and Kuwait "to prepare for a new round" of talks, as he left Muscat late Saturday after discussions with representative of Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels and their allies.
Riyadh has been the base of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi since the rebels forced him to flee his country in March 2015 and prompted Saudi Arabia to lead an Arab coalition in a military campaign against the insurgents.
Hadi flew into Aden on Saturday for a surprise visit to the southern port city serving as Yemen's temporary capital since coalition-backed loyalists recaptured it from the rebels.
"I am ready to visit President Hadi in Aden if need be," Cheikh Ahmed said, in a statement carried by Oman's official ONA news agency.
The UN envoy said he found "a lot of seriousness" in talks with representatives of the Huthis and their allies from the party of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
He also said he had been in contact with US Secretary of State John Kerry who "sees a historic chance to achieve peace in Yemen".
A previous round of peace talks held in Kuwait collapsed in August.
A 48-hour ceasefire declared by the coalition ended last Monday with little success in reducing violence in the war-torn country.
Both parties traded blame for the numerous violations of the truce that came into effect after Kerry intervened.
It was the latest international attempt to end Yemen's conflict, which the United Nations says has killed more than 7,000 people and wounded nearly 37,000 since March last year.
The Huthis overran the capital Sanaa and other parts of the impoverished country in September 2014.
A Yemeni official said Sunday that 12 civilians were killed as a coalition air strike hit two makeshift wooden houses sheltering displaced families in the western province of Hodeida.
The official said the raid late Saturday had apparently targeted the two houses "mistakenly", adding that a rebel position 300 metres (yards) away was not touched.
The coalition has been strongly criticised for the high number of civilians killed in its air strikes.
Elsewhere, two women were killed in rebel bombing of the southwestern city of Taez, military officials said.
Clashes raged on the outskirts of the flashpoint city, killing four rebels and three government soldiers late Saturday, they said.