Yemen president confirms proposed 7-day ceasefire for peace talks

UNITED NATIONS: Yemen's president told the United Nations on Monday that he has asked the Saudi-led coalition to begin a 7-day ceasefire on December 15 to coincide with UN-sponsored peace talks aimed at ending months of fighting that has killed nearly 6,000 people.

"I have notified the leadership of the Coalition of our intention to cease fire for a period of seven days, starting December 15 until December 21," President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"This will coincide with the starting of consultations and will automatically be renewed upon commitment by the (Iran-backed) Houthis," he added.

An unofficial English translation of Hadi's letter to Ban was attached to the Arabic original.

Hadi's letter, which it said was also sent to the UN Security Council, confirmed remarks made earlier on Monday by UN special envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who said Hadi's Saudi-backed exiled government and the Houthis were committed to the peace process laid down by the Security Council in April.

"I hope you would inform the UN envoy of the need to ensure that the Houthis would respect the ceasefire, and to take practical steps to ensure adherence to the permanent ceasefire, so that the Coalition forces would not deal with any breach of the ceasefire," Hadi said.

He added that the ceasefire came "out of our desire to create an atmosphere for the success of the UN-led consultations that the government intends to participate (in) in the coming days, and in order to help avoid further bloodshed and expand the medical and humanitarian relief efforts."

Forces loyal to Hadi, backed by air strikes and ground forces from a mainly Gulf Arab coalition, have been locked for nine months in a civil war with the Houthis, who rule the capital Sanaa and other cities.

Previous UN-mediated negotiations to end the conflict through dialogue failed as battles rage across the country and Saudi-led warplanes bomb positions of the Houthi group and its Yemeni army allies.

Earlier attempts at ceasefires in the conflict fell apart after the two sides accused each other of violations.

Senior UN officials have said that Yemen, which was already in dire need of aid before the conflict, is facing a severe humanitarian crisis, which has been exacerbated by a Saudi-led naval blockade.