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Ceasefire committee formed for Yemen

Yemeni negotiators have agreed to form a committee overseeing fragile truce after fresh fighting threatened to scuttle talks aimed at ending conflict. A UN envoy noted frequent violations of ceasefire on all sides.

Both sides of the Yemen war arrived Saturday at a hotel in the Swiss city of Biel to attend a fifth day of talks aimed at halting the eight-month conflict in the Arab peninsula's poorest nation, which has killed thousands, caused widespread destruction and triggered a major humanitarian crisis.

The only long-term agreement so far is to form a joint-committee to

oversee the ceasefire

called in order to allow peace talks to progress.

A Lebanese army general will oversee the ceasefire committee that includes representatives from the Saudi-backed government of Yemen's President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and rebels from the Iran-backed Houthi movement tied to former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

"A coordination and de-escalation committee was created to strengthen adherence to the cessation of hostilities," a statement by UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said.

But face-to-face talks between Hadi's government and the Houthi group have not occurred since Wednesday evening, after the Houthis rejected demands for the release of detained senior officials, including Yemen's defense minister and Hadi's brother, Reuters news agency reported.

Jemen Waffenpause vor Friedensgesprächen in Genf Mohammed Abdul-Salam

Mohammed Abdul-Salam heads the Houthi delegation engaged in peace talks in Switzerland

A catalogue of ceasefire violations

As early as Tuesday there were fears the ceasefire had collapsed after government forces seized two towns from rebels and their Saudi-led Arab coalition allies accused insurgents of escalating the conflict by firing ballistic missiles.

But the UN announced the first breakthrough on Thursday when both sides had agreed to allow the resumption of humanitarian aid to the city of Taez. Hundreds of

prisoners were also exchanged

the same day in the southern province of Lahj.

The optimism, however, was short-lived. The truce was again tested when troops loyal to Hadi seized a city in the northwest and military base from Houthi forces. Warplanes and gunboats from the Saudi-led military coalition also

bombarded targets in northern Yemen.

Yemen's conflict began in September 2014, when the Houthis - Shiites who complained of disenfranchisement - advanced from the north to occupy the capital Sanaa.

Fighting escalated dramatically in March with Saudi-led airstrikes launched against the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. More than 5,800 have died with more than 27,000 wounded, the UN said.

jar/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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