Next round of Yemen peace talks to start on April 18

UN special envoy for Yemen urges warring parties to 'engage constructively' in next round of Yemen peace talks which will begin on April 18

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

UN's special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (R), walks alongside Yemeni Foreign Minister Riad Yassin before their meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh on July 1, 2015.

The United Nations special envoy to Yemen on Friday welcomed a recent prisoner swap between the parties of the Yemen conflict and urged them to "engage constructively" in the new round of peace talks set to begin on April 18.

Earlier this week, Saudi-led military coalition said it had completed a prisoner swap in Yemen, exchanging nine Saudi prisoners for 109 Yemeni nationals ahead of a planned truce and peace talks aimed at ending the year-long war with Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

"These initiatives reinforced the spirit of the confidence building measures recommended at the previous round of talks and there is no doubt that they can provide an important drive to the political process," UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement.

"I am looking forward to the active participation of relevant parties in the talks," he added. "Yemeni delegations should seize this opportunity to provide a mechanism for a return to a peaceful and orderly transition."

Anti-Houthi fighters of the Southern Popular Resistance stand on a tank in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden, May 10, 2015. (Reuters Archive)

Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the two sides have confirmed a cessation of hostilities starting at midnight on April 10 ahead of the peace talks set to begin in Kuwait a week later.

"We are planning and preparing at full speed," Ould Cheikh Ahmed said about the upcoming peace talks.

"UN political experts have already been deployed to Sanaa and Riyadh in order to work with the delegations gearing up for the resumption of talks," he added. "Another team is on its way to Kuwait to finalise the preparations."

Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hoped the planned cessation of hostilities would open the door to a permanent truce.

The warring parties in Yemen had agreed on a seven-day ceasefire which began on Dec 15 under UN surveillance in Switzerland.

However, with no major breakthrough in peace talks, the repeatedly violated ceasefire collapsed on January 2. The first violation of the ceasefire came just minutes after it had been declared.

The Saudi Arabia led military coalition formally began its intervention in Yemen on March 25 after the Shiite Houthi rebels advanced on the southern city of Aden, forcing Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee the city and take refuge in Riyadh. 

Gulf Arab countries and the US have accused Iran of assisting the Houthi militants financially and militarily.

According to the United Nations, at least 6,000 people have been killed in the ongoing civil war in Yemen, nearly half of them civilians and more than 27,000 have been injured since March.

TRTWorld, Reuters