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Yemen peace talks continue as army fights Al-Qaeda

Arab News Tuesday, April 26th 2016 11:30 AM


KUWAIT/ADEN: Yemen’s government forces battled Al-Qaeda in the country’s south on Saturday, aiming to push back advances the militant group has made during a yearlong civil war for which peace talks are under way in Kuwait.
Fifteen fighters loyal to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) were killed in the clashes, residents and a military source said, while a drone strike killed two others further north.
The war pits a collection of local forces and army remnants backed by the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and a Saudi-led Arab coalition against the Houthi movement and troops loyal to deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Representatives gathered in Kuwait on Thursday to begin peace talks after agreeing a cease-fire across the country. 
However, as talks moved into a third day disputes continued over both the agenda and accusations from the government that the Houthis and Saleh’s forces had breached the truce in the city of Taiz, a source from Hadi’s government said.
The government wants the Houthis and Saleh’s forces to withdraw from cities and hand over weapons before discussing a solution to the political disagreements. The Houthis and its allies want a unity government to be formed before disarmament talks.
The government delegation on Saturday said it would only meet UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad and not sit directly with the Houthis, the source said.
Cease-fire documents shown to Reuters by the Saudi-led coalition showed agreements for each of Yemen’s provinces where fighting was taking place signed by representatives of each side, who had formed committees to monitor the truce.
The agreements were decided in the southern Saudi town of Dhahran Al-Janoub, a few miles from the Yemeni border, where representatives of the Houthis traveled last month to negotiate the cease-fire and prisoner swaps with Hadi’s government.
Saturday’s clashes at Al-Koud near Zinjibar in the southern Abyan Province were between AQAP and army forces of Yemen’s internationally recognized government backed by local militias, referred to locally as the Popular Resistance.
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