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Yemen rebels say truce depends on ‘aggression’ ending


Yemen1Yemen’s Iran-backed Shiite rebels will only commit to a ceasefire expected next week if loyalists and the Saudi-led coalition supporting them end their “aggression”, their spokesman said on Saturday.

The ceasefire was first announced by the government earlier this week to coincide with UN-mediated peace talks in Switzerland on Tuesday.

“We will stop (fighting) when the aggression against us stops,” Mohammed Abdulsalam, spokesman for the Ansarullah party, told a news conference in the rebel-held Yemeni capital before heading to Geneva for the talks.

“Based on what has been agreed, there will be a halt to the aggression on December 14 which will be confirmed within 24 hours before we begin a serious and positive dialogue,” he said.

Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mekhlafi told AFP that “there is an agreement on a ceasefire to begin Monday.”

“From our side, we wish a ceasefire would start even from now,” said Mekhlafi, adding that he hoped the rebels, knowns as Huthis, would commit.

UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said this week that Riyadh had promised to observe the ceasefire and pause its aerial assault on rebel positions during talks.

A swift halt to the fighting, which has dramatically escalated since a Saudi-led coalition began bombarding insurgents in March, was imperative for those caught up in the conflict, he said.

The talks, to be held away from the media in an undisclosed Swiss location, will focus on four main areas, including the terms for a permanent ceasefire and the withdrawal of armed groups from the areas under their control, a reference mainly to the Huthis.

The United Nations, citing data compiled from health facilities, says more than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen, about half of them civilians, and more than 27,000 wounded since March.

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