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Yemen rebels halt peace talks in Switzerland, set conditions

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Sanaa: Yemeni peace talks in Switzerland have been halted after the country’s Shiite rebel delegation suspended all meetings with the internationally recognized government in protest over its cease-fire violations, members of Yemen’s two warring sides told The Associated Press.

The rebels, known as Houthis, yesterday said they would not resume talks unless the UN condemned the breaches by government forces of the week-long truce, the delegates said. Houthi fighters have also ignored the cease-fire agreement.

But the United Nations, which is mediating the talks, cast doubts on the alleged suspension.

“We don’t have confirmation of any suspension,” the deputy spokesman for the UN secretary-general, Farhan Haq, told the AP.

He said the UN special envoy for the country, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, “remains in touch with the parties.”

The UN later said Ahmed “held several sessions with the participants on the fourth day of the peace talks.” A statement said Ahmed also was “deeply concerned at reports of violations of the cessation of hostilities announced earlier today.”

The UN has urged all factions in the conflict to end the violence and is pressing to keep the talks going. The Houthis appeared to be tactically stalling to avoid meeting their obligations under a deal reached with the government a day earlier, government delegates told the AP.

On Thursday, the Houthis agreed to permit the resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries into the besieged city of Taiz and to exchange prisoners, including the government’s Defense Minister Mahmoud al-Sabahi — concessions they were reluctant to make.

The war in Yemen pits the Houthis and army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against pro-government forces, which are backed by a US-supported, Saudi-led coalition, as well as southern separatists, religious extremists and other militants.

The peace negotiations began Tuesday at the Swiss Olympic House in the village of Macolin, a training center for elite athletes.