Yemen peace talks back on track

Yemen’s warring factions have agreed on an agenda for UN-backed peace negotiations, following heavy pressure from world powers.

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The talks to end fighting between the Iran-allied Houthis and supporters of Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi started last week but were suspended on Sunday amid bickering about flights over Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition, which the Houthis say is a violation of the April 10 truce.

Differences over the agenda had made it difficult for the two sides to start real negotiations to end the 13-month war that has killed more than 6200 people, wounded more than 35,000 and displaced more than 2.5 million people.

The two sides agreed last week to a five-point agenda outlined by the UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, but remained divided over whether to start with a unity government or focus on a Houthi withdrawal.

Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah, whose country is hosting the talks, waded into the dispute, helping to smooth differences over the truce and over the agenda, delegates said.

The return to talks followed strong pressure from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

“The diplomats were quite tough and used harsh language, telling them that peace in Yemen was important for regional security and that no one would be allowed to leave Kuwait without an agreement,” one source told Reuters.

The stability of Yemen, where al-Qaeda and Islamic State are vying for influence, is of international concern as the country neighbours Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, and is also near key shipping lanes.

Hadi supporters, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, have attacked the AQAP stronghold in southern Yemen over the past two days, driving them from the Hadramout provincial capital and from key Arabian Sea ports.