Yemen government, rebels meet aboard UN ship for truce talks | News | DW | 03.02.2019
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Yemen government, rebels meet aboard UN ship for truce talks

Yemen's warring parties have begun talks aboard a boat in the Red Sea as part of a UN-led push to implement a cease-fire deal. A planned troop withdrawal from the key port city of Hodeida has stalled.

Representatives from Yemen's internationally recognized government and the Houthi rebels met on a UN vessel docked off the Red Sea port of Hodeida on Sunday.

Both sides agreed during December talks in Sweden to withdraw their troops from the strategically important city and open humanitarian corridors by January 7. But attempts to implement the plan have since flagged.

The UN-brokered agreement aimed to pave the way for a resolution to Yemen's four-year conflict and avert a full-scale escalation in Hodeida, which is the main entry point for most of the country's imported goods and humanitarian aid.

Read moreUNICEF: World 'has continued to fail' children in conflict zones

Third meeting

While the truce has largely held in Hodeida, violence has flared in other parts of the country not covered by the deal. Both parties accuse each other of violating the agreement, and both have failed to stick to the deadline to pull back forces.

Sunday's meeting, the third since December, was held on a UN boat because the Houthi representatives were unwilling to cross the conflict frontline to attend talks in government-held territory.

The first two meetings were held in territory under Houthi control, with the head of the UN mission overseeing the deal shuttling between the two parties.

Read moreUN officials, international parties talk Yemen in Berlin

Yemen, one of the Arab world's most impoverished countries, has been gripped by a power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the Iran-allied Houthi rebels since late 2014.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched a bombing campaign in Yemen in March 2015 after the rebels overran the capital, Sanaa. 

The UN says the conflict has triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with millions of people at risk of starvation. According to the World Health Organization, at least 10,000 people have been killed since 2015.

Pope visits the Arabian peninsula

Pope Francis, who was due to arrive in the UAE on Sunday, called on all sides to "respect" the cease-fire pact and allow humanitarian aid to reach suffering Yemenis.

"I am following the humanitarian crisis in Yemen with great concern," he said ahead of his departure. "The population is exhausted by the long conflict and many, many children are suffering from hunger but they are not able to get to food deposits."

nm/ng (Reuters, AFP, AP) 

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