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France, Saudi to hold Yemen humanitarian conference end June

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PARIS (Reuters) – France and Saudi Arabia will co-host an international conference on Yemen in Paris in June to assess humanitarian needs for the country and possibly contribute to reviving U.N.-backed peace talks.

A Saudi-led coalition backed by the West has carried out air strikes against the armed Houthi movement in a war since 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in a war that has displaced 3 million internally and unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the U.N. says.

“We are currently working on how to organise this conference with our various partners, Yemen and the United Nations,” France’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll told reporters in a daily briefing on Wednesday.

“This conference should take stock of humanitarian needs, evaluate the assistance provided and the response mechanisms which need to be improved and define humanitarian actions to improve the situation of civilian populations.”

The French president’s office said the conference would take place at the end of June. A source aware of the plans said it was scheduled for June 27.

Von der Muhll declined to say whether Paris intended to invite representatives of the Iran-aligned Houthis, who control more than 70 percent of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

“This work, which we want to be collective, can help to recreate the conditions for a resumption of political discussions under the auspices of the United nations,” Von der Muhll said in a statement on Tuesday.

It is unclear how this would fit into the U.N. Yemen mediator Martin Griffiths’ efforts. He said in April he wanted to present a plan for negotiations within two months to end the conflict, but warned that any new military offensives could “take peace off the table.”

Three rounds of U.N.-backed peace talks between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, with the last held in Kuwait in August 2016, ended without success. Griffiths began his term in March in a bid by the U.N. to revive the stalled peace process.

(Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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