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Thursday, 12 May 2016

Yemen foes discuss military pullouts, arms handovers: UN

Yemen's government and Iran-backed rebels have discussed the crucial issues of military withdrawals, the handover of weapons and the restoration of state institutions during peace talks, the UN said Thursday.
Negotiators on Wednesday also debated the logistical details of a release of prisoners and detainees announced a day earlier, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement.
It was their third day of consecutive face-to-face meetings -- the longest run yet in the three-week-old talks.
"Parties began to present their visions on the withdrawals and the handover of weapons, especially mechanisms of withdrawal and assembling of forces," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
He did not say if the teams made any progress on these issues, which are central to any peace settlement in the impoverished Arab nation.
A working group focused on political issues meanwhile discussed "specific aspects for the restoration of state institutions and the resumption of the political dialogue," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.
A UN Security Council resolution has ordered the Huthi Shiite rebels to pull out of territory they occupied in a 2014 offensive and surrender heavy arms they captured.
There has been mounting international pressure to end the Yemen conflict, which the United Nations estimates has killed more than 6,400 people and displaced 2.8 million since March last year.
The two sides said Tuesday they had agreed to free half of all prisoners and detainees within 20 days, but the UN said the agreement has not been finalised.
The Huthis and their allies loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh seized most of Yemen in the 2014 offensive, forcing internationally recognised President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and his government to flee.
Pro-government forces, backed by Saudi air power, pushed the rebels out of five southern provinces last year.
The Huthis however still control the capital Sanaa as well as large parts of the country's north and west, and the Saudi-led coalition has drawn strong criticism over heavy civilian casualties.
The rebels are demanding the formation of a consensus transitional government to handle the pullout and arms issues but the government delegation insists Hadi is the legitimate head of state.
More meetings are scheduled for Thursday. The talks follow two failed peace attempts in June and December last year in Switzerland.
© 2016 AFP

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