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Yemen peace talks set to open in Kuwait

Warring factions in Yemen's conflict have agreed to meet in Kuwait. The talks are the most significant attempt to resolve the devastating conflict, which has killed over 6,400 people and displaced around 2.8 million.

UN-brokered Yemeni peace talks - originally scheduled to begin Monday - are expected to open Thursday in Kuwait, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

"The Yemeni peace negotiations will start tomorrow in Kuwait under the auspices of the United Nations," he said Wednesday.

The long-awaited talks

were due to follow

a ceasefire that went into effect this month,

but both sides have accused each other of ceasefire violations.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Iranian-aligned Houthi rebels and their allies have been battling for control of the fractured country since March 2015.

The Houthis had rejected a proposed agenda demanding they surrender their heavy weapons and withdraw from their areas of control before a new government comprising all Yemeni forces is formed.

A worsening humanitarian crisis

Jemen Luftangriffe in Sanaa

The conflict has raised tensions between Sunni Arab states led by Saudi Arabia and its regional rival, Shiite majority Iran

A failure of peace talks is likely to stoke fighting in the war-racked country, which has seen thousands killed and millions displaced over the past year, leading to stark warnings of a broadening humanitarian crisis.

Saudi-backed government forces have managed since July to reclaim large parts of the south of the country, including the provisional capital Aden, but have been unable to capture the capital city, Sanaa, and other key areas that have been Houthi strongholds.

Now the warring factions will have a chance to express their differences with words rather than weapons. On Wednesday, a delegation of Houthi leaders and their allies boarded an Omani plane bound for Kuwait via Muscat, a Sanaa airport official told the AFP news agency.

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government delegation, which had already arrived in Kuwait last weekend, had threatened to pull out if the talks did not begin by Thursday morning.

An unnamed Western diplomat in Kuwait said representatives of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council sent a message to the rebels saying they "understand their fears" and urging them to "quickly join" the talks, AFP reported.

jar/ rc(AFP, dpa)

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