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Yemen peace talks begin in Switzerland
December 15, 2015, 3:51 pm

Houthi rebels parade their wares in the Yemeni capital Sanaa December 15, 2015 [Xinhua]

Houthi rebels parade their wares in the Yemeni capital Sanaa December 15, 2015 [Xinhua]

The Yemeni government and Houthi rebels, who have fought a bitter year-long civil war for control of the country, agreed to an immediate ceasefire on Tuesday.

The halt in hostilities allows humanitarian relief to be provided for millions of Yemenis in need of food, medicine and healthcare.

The ceasefire also paved the way for face-to-face peace talks which kicked off in Geneva earlier today.

“The cessation of hostilities which was called today should mark the end of military violence in Yemen and the transition to progress based on negotiations, dialogue and consensus,” said UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed who is also mediating the negotiations.

Previous ceasefire attempts have failed to materialize into concrete peace talks. On Monday, Saudi sources said the ceasefire would last at least a week.

The ceasefire also came a day after a missile struck a base operated by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which backs the Yemeni government.

Senior Saudi and United Arab Emirates officers were among those killed, Arab media reported late Monday.

Ahmed said that he hopes the talks will lead to “a durable political solution for Yemen, which would meet the legitimate aspirations of the Yemeni people for peace, stability, and prosperity”.

Thousands killed

The United Nations says that at least 4,500 people have been killed and one million displaced since the conflict between the government and rebels broke out in September.

It says that more than 16 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Yemeni monitors say the death toll is at least 7,500.

In January, the Houthis – who are Shia – seized the presidential palace in the capital Sanaa and forced then leader Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi to resign. They have since sought to consolidate their hold on the country.

Hadi, who was placed under house arrest, eventually escaped and fled to Aden, the former capital of South Yemen.

He then declared Aden the new temporary capital of the entire country, but the Houthis pursued him there and captured that city as well.

The fall of Aden prompted the Saudis and some of their allies to mount military operations against the Houthis, who they accuse of acting as Iranian proxies.

The fight between the Houthis and the government, which was formed in November 2014, has created a security and political vacuum that has been used by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as well as the more militant Islamic State (ISIL), to grow their strength and influence.

Government forces recaptured the city of Aden in August; some government officials soon returned there to administer rebuilding the war-battered country.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies