ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) - United Nations-backed peace talks aimed at ending eight months of civil war in Yemen between an Iranian-allied militia group and the embattled Saudi-backed government will convene on Dec. 15, Saudi-owned TV quoted Yemen’s foreign minister as saying.
“Consultations on the implementation of Resolution 2216 will be held on Dec. 15,” the network quoted Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi as saying in a news flash, referring to a U.N. Security Council decision calling for Yemen’s dominant Houthi militia to quit major cities.
The U.N. envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, met President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi on Saturday to discuss prospects for peace talks between his embattled Aden-based government and Houthi forces, the president’s office said.
Forces loyal to Hadi backed by mainly Gulf Arab states have been locked in eight months of civil war with the Houthis who rule the capital Sanaa.
Previous U.N.-mediated negotiations to end the conflict through dialogue failed as battles rage across the country and Saudi-led warplanes bomb positions of Yemen’s ascendant Houthi group and its Yemeni army allies.
Earlier on Saturday, Hadi said in a statement he welcomed talks, which are expected to take place in Geneva.
“Despite the suffering and wounds, our hands are always outstretched for peace based on national and humanitarian responsibilities toward our people,” Hadi was quoted as saying after meeting the envoy.
It is the first time the envoy has paid an official visit to Aden, which Hadi declared the temporary capital after Arab coalition forces seized it from the Houthis in July.
But the government and its Gulf allies have struggled to impose their authority in the city, which teems with shadowy gunmen who carried out two shootings on Saturday.
Eyewitnesses said attackers on motor bikes shot dead Muhsin Alwan, a prominent judge in an anti-terrorism court, and his two sons inside a supermarket in the Aden district of Mansura. Gunmen killed a military police colonel in Mualla neighborhood earlier in the day.
Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and more recently Yemen’s branch of Islamic State have claimed credit for attacks in Aden.
The Houthi group swept Hadi from power in February as part of what it called a revolution against corruption and accused Hadi of being beholden to Saudi Arabia and the West.
Gulf Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia intervened as the civil war worsened in March, fearing the group was acting as a proxy for its regional rival Iran, but making few gains toward retaking the capital in a war that has killed over 5,700 people.
Mistrust runs deep between Yemen’s warring parties, with the Houthis believing the government wants to take back power by force and Hadi officials saying that the Houthis are refusing to withdraw from main cities as required by the U.N. Security Council Resolution passed in March.
“The government is ready for talks but the other side isn’t, and its actions on the ground contradict their statements that they support a peaceful solution,” foreign minister al-Mekhlafi told Reuters.
Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari, Mohammed Mukhashaf and Ahmed Tolba; Writing by Noah Browning; Editing by Dominic Evans, Richard Balmforth and Chris Reese