Houthis say ready for fresh Yemen talks if attacks stop

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SANAA (Reuters) - Yemen’s Houthi-run governing council said on Sunday it was ready to restart peace talks with the country’s exiled government provided a Saudi-led coalition stopped attacking and besieging Houthi-held territories.

U.N.-sponsored negotiations to end 18 months of fighting in the impoverished country on Saudi Arabia’s southern border collapsed earlier this month and the dominant Iran-allied Houthi movement there resumed shelling attacks into the kingdom.

At its weekly meeting at Sanaa’s presidential palace, the council said that its willingness to restart peace talks was contingent on the “total cessation of the aggression and lifting of the unjust siege on the Yemeni people”.

In talks in Jeddah this week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the conflict had gone on too long and needed to end.

He said the Houthis must cease shelling across the border with Saudi Arabia, pull back from the capital Sanaa, cede their weapons and enter into a unity government with their domestic foes.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government, based in Saudi Arabia, has made similar demands but insisted that the Houthis fulfill all those measures before any new government was formed. However Kerry suggested they could move ahead in parallel.

The exiled government suggested in a statement carried by the Saba news agency that it was prepared to consider the ideas outlined by Kerry.

It said: “The government is prepared to deal positively with any peaceful solutions ... including an initial welcoming of the ideas resulting from the meeting in Jeddah that included the foreign secretaries of the U.S.,the United Kingdom and Gulf states.”

The Yemen war has killed more than 6,500 people and displaced some 3 million. Saudi Arabia has launched thousands of air strikes on the country.

Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Celine Aswad and William Maclean; Editing by Andrew Roche