Yemen govt invited to UN-brokered peace talks: spokesman

Muscat - 

The Yemeni government has been invited to take part in a new round of UN-brokered talks with rebels to end the country's deadly seven-month-old conflict, spokesman Rajih Badi said Saturday.

"We have received an invitation from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, via his envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, to hold a new round of consultations with the Huthis and (rebel-allied former strongman) Ali Abdullah Saleh to implement UN Resolution 2216," Badi told AFP.

The announcement comes two days after UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson said he hoped new talks between the Yemeni government and Iran-backed Huthi rebels could start this month despite a "deep distrust" between the warring parties.

Badi said that "until now, there has been no agreement on the venue or a specific date" for the consultations.

But he told the pro-government news agency sabanew.net that the government will "officially respond to the UN invitation within the next 48 hours."

Resolution 2216 calls for the withdrawal of rebel forces from territories they have captured and for them to lay down their arms.

A first attempt to hold peace talks in Geneva in June between the pro-government forces and Huthi rebels collapsed without the warring parties even sitting down in the same room.

Last month, President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's government backed away from UN-sponsored talks that were to be held in Oman, insisting the rebels first withdraw from territory they have seized.

The Huthis overran the capital Sanaa unopposed in September 2014 and went on to battle for control of several regions, aided by renegade troops loyal to Saleh.

In July, loyalist forces backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition evicted the rebels from five southern provinces, and they have since set their sights on Sanaa.

Some 4,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March.

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