April 22, 2015 / 6:24 AM / in 2 years

Iran calls for Yemen talks, says long-term peace possible

ANKARA (Reuters) - Iran called on Wednesday for all sides in Yemen's conflict to start negotiations, saying long-term peace was possible a day after Saudi Arabia called an end to air strikes against Shi'ite Muslim Houthi rebels allied to Tehran.

Saudi Arabia said its campaign against the Houthis in neighboring Yemen had secured its territory and achieved its goals, but added that a new operation aimed at delivering a political solution would also include a military dimension.

"History has demonstrated that military intervention is not a proper response to these crises and will instead exacerbate the situation," Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said at an Asian-African conference in Jakarta.

"We believe that sustainable peace can prevail if military intervention is ceased and proper conditions are prepared for talks and dialogue among all political groups."

Iran had repeatedly said it would support a political solution to restore peace in Yemen. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the Saudi move as a "positive" measure and urged talks and the formation of a new government.

"Positive developments in Yemen should be followed by urgent humanitarian assistance, intra-Yemeni dialogue and broad-based govt (government). Ready to help," Zarif said in a message on his Twitter account.

The United States and Iran's regional rival Saudi Arabia have accused Shi'ite Iran of arming the Houthis. Iran denies the claim.

Saudi Arabia said a new phase called "Operation Restoring Hope" was beginning, which would combine political, diplomatic and military action but would focus on "the political process that will lead to a stable and secure future for Yemen".

Saudi spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said the alliance may still target Houthis and militiamen in southern Yemen, said they would continue fighting the Houthis and allied Yemeni army units until they drove them out of the region.

The United Nations says more than 750 people have already been killed and about 150,000 people driven from their homes by three weeks of air strikes and ground fighting.

Yemen is also home to one of the most lethal branches of al Qaeda which has been targeted for years by U.S. drone strikes.

Additional reporting by Randy Fabi in Jakarta, Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by William Maclean and Andrew Heavens

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