UN envoy says Yemen's warring sides agree to peace talks

Posted at 7:28 AM, Dec 07, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-07 08:27:33-05

GENEVA (AP) — Yemen's warring parties have agreed to hold peace talks in Switzerland next week, the U.N. special envoy said Monday.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed told reporters in Geneva that the talks would begin Dec. 15 in a venue to be determined. He pointed to "a number of good signs" that a cease-fire, which is to begin the same day, will be respected.

He said only Yemeni participants — not foreigners — would take part in the talks.

"Only a political solution will end the crisis in Yemen," said Ould Cheikh Ahmed. "We strongly believe that the only way to end the suffering of the Yemeni people and to rebuild confidence, trust, and mutual respect is through peaceful and inclusive dialogue."

"Making peace requires a lot of courage, personal sacrifice and tenacity," he added. "I call on the parties to adhere to a cease-fire effective the 15th of December in order to create an environment conducive to peace talks, save lives, and give hope to the Yemeni people."

The conflict in the impoverished Arabic Peninsula country pits the Shiite Houthis rebels and army units loyal to a former president against a loose alliance of pro-government forces, southern separatists and other militants. The U.N. estimates that at least 5,700 people have died since the conflict escalated in March and a Saudi-led air campaign began.

Previous peace efforts have ended in failure, with the government demanding the implementation of a U.N. resolution calling on the Houthis to lay down arms seized from the state and withdraw from territory, including the capital. The Houthis want broader negotiations on the country's political future.