December 11, 2015 / 5:28 PM / 3 years ago

Days before peace talks, Yemen's PM says determined to stop the war

RIYADH (Reuters) - Yemeni Prime Minister Khaled Bahah said on Friday he was determined to end an eight-month civil war that has killed 6,000 people and caused widespread damage to the economy and infrastructure.

Yemen's Vice President and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah addresses a gathering of local officials after his arrival to the country's northern province of Marib November 22, 2015. REUTERS/Ali Owidha

“We are determined to stop the war that has ruined lives and property in Yemen,” Bahah was quoted as saying by Saudi state television.

Bahah was speaking in the Saudi capital Riyadh where he met Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman and a group of negotiators from Yemen’s government who are preparing to fly to Switzerland for U.N.-sponsored peace talks with the Iran-allied Houthis who control Yemen’s capital.

A seven-day ceasefire is expected to take effect when negotiations start in Switzerland on Dec. 15.

“We are going there in trust and goodwill, and with seriousness to make peace this time,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi told Reuters in Riyadh.

A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March to try to restore the government after it was toppled by Houthi forces. A mounting civilian death toll and destruction of critical infrastructure has alarmed human rights groups.

On Friday, Saudi forces repelled an attack by Houthi fighters on a Saudi border town in the Jizan province, Saudi state TV reported, highlighting tensions before the peace talks.

A previous round of U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva between the Yemeni government and the Houthis faltered in June after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government demanded the Houthis pull out of cities captured since last September as a precondition for a ceasefire.

The Houthis, who are predominantly Zaydi Shi’ite, say they led a revolution against what they call 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.

At least 5,400 people have been killed in the fighting in the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula, and the United Nations says the humanitarian situation, exacerbated by a Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports, is “critical”.

Reporting by Angus McDowall in Riyadh, Ali Abdelatti and Mohamed Ghobari. Writing by Tom Finn; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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