December 9, 2015 / 9:21 PM / 3 years ago

Yemeni foreign minister says seven-day ceasefire can be renewed

DOHA (Reuters) - Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi said on Wednesday that a seven-day ceasefire expected to start with peace talks next week would be renewed if Iran-backed Houthi militias abided by it.

A tank operated by government army moves to shell Houthi positions in al-Labanat area between Yemen's northern provoices of al-Jawf and Marib December 5, 2015. REUTERS/Ali Owidha

Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said on Monday he had asked the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis to begin a ceasefire on Dec. 15 in a bid to end months of fighting that has killed nearly 6,000 people and displaced millions.

“The truce is for seven days and subject to automatic renewal provided that the Houthis abide by it,” Mekhlafi told the Doha-based al-Jazeera television.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, United Nations special envoy to Yemen, said that Hadi’s government and the Houthis were committed to the peace process laid down by the Security Council last April.

Resolution 2216 called on all sides to end the violence and demanded that the Houthis withdraw from all areas seized since the conflict began in September last year.

Forces loyal to Hadi, backed by air strikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition, have been locked for nine months in a civil war with the Houthis, who rule the capital Sanaa and other cities.

The Houthi group says it led a revolution against the corrupt government of Hadi, but his administration and Gulf allies accuse them of carrying out a coup and advancing Iranian influence in the Arab world.

Earlier on Wednesday, unknown attackers blew up an abandoned Catholic Church in the southern Yemeni port city of Aden days after Islamic State militants assassinated the city’s governor.

Hadi’s embattled government is based in Aden but has struggled to impose its authority there since its forces, backed by Gulf Arab troops, expelled the Houthi fighters from the city.

Reporting by Omar Fahmy; Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Tom Heneghan

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