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US, UN push Houthis for renewed Yemen peace talks

The US State Department has revealed it held talks with Houthi rebels in Yemen last week, pushing them to negotiate a hostage release and to discuss a solution to the conflict in Yemen. The UN has echoed the calls.

On Tuesday, the US State Department revealed that it met with Houthi rebels from Yemen in the capital of Oman last week. The purpose of the meeting was to encourage the rebels to participate in a UN-brokered meeting that would seek a solution to Yemen's political crisis that pits the Houthi rebels against the Yemeni government of exiled President President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

"We used that meeting to reinforce our view that there can only be a political solution to the conflict in Yemen,and that all parties, including the Houthi, should commit to participation in the UN-led process," said State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf.

UN encourages dialogue

The UN Security Council also released a statement on Tuesday expressing its disappointment that a previously planned meeting, scheduled for May 28 in Geneva, between the two sides of the Yemeni conflict did not take place, and encouraged a new date for such a meeting to be set quickly "without preconditions and in good faith."

The council said it supported the efforts of the UN to establish "a peaceful, inclusive, orderly and Yemeni-led political transition."

Unconfirmed media reports indicate that June 10 has been set as the new date for the meeting in Geneva.

The State Department also said it had raised the issue of an American journalist who was being held by the Houthis in Yemen during the discussions last week in Oman. According to media outlets in Oman, the journalist and another hostage from Singapore

have now been released

.

Crisis continues

A Saudi-led coalition of Gulf states launched airstrikes against the Houthis on March 26 with the aim of restoring Hadi to power. They're concerned that Iran, which they say backs the rebels, could gain a foothold in the Arabian Peninsula.

Up to 2,000 people have been killed and 8,000 more wounded since the bombing campaign began in March, according to the World Health Organization. Half a million people have been displaced.

On Tuesday, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced it would scale up its operations to get emergency food aid to 2.5 million people in Yemen by July. The agency said there are currently 12.5 million food unsecure people in Yemen. A statement said that food and gas prices have skyrocketed since the start of the crisis. The WFP added that Yemen imports nearly 90 percent of its food from abroad.

mz/msh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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