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Britain to push U.N. Security Council to back humanitarian truce in Yemen

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Britain to push U.N. Security Council to back humanitarian truce in Yemen

Britain to push U.N. Security Council to back humanitarian truce in Yemen
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Khaled Abdullah(Reuters)
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Britain said on Friday it will push the United Nations Security Council to back a humanitarian truce in Yemen as the U.N. Yemen envoy said the warring parties had given "firm assurances" they were committed to attending peace talks shortly in Sweden.

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British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce said she would give the 15-member council a draft resolution on Monday that would enshrine five requests made by U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock, one of which was for a truce around infrastructure and facilities on which the aid operation and commercial importers rely.

Pierce said the aim of the resolution would be to put Lowcock's call "into practice." She gave no timeline for when the draft resolution could be put to a vote.

The remaining four requests were for protection of the supply of food and essential goods, a larger, faster injection of foreign exchange into the economy through the central bank, increased humanitarian funding and support, and for the warring parties to engage in peace talks.

"This is a crucial moment for Yemen," said U.N. Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths, who is trying to convene peace talks in Sweden before the end of the year.

"I have received firm assurances from the leadership of the Yemeni parties ... that they are committed to attending these consultations. I believe they are genuine," he told the Security Council on Friday.

He is trying to broker peace in the more than three-year-old conflict seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-allied Houthi group.

U.N. food chief David Beasley said the situation in Yemen was "a catastrophe."

The Houthis now rule most of Yemen's population, while the exiled government controls a section of the south. An attempt to hold peace talks in Geneva in September was abandoned after three days of waiting for the Houthi delegation.

"I will go to Sanaa next week ... I will also be happy to travel myself, if necessary, with the delegation to the consultations," Griffiths said. He is aiming to convene talks before the end of the year.

The Houthis had said in September that they wanted U.N. guarantees their plane would not have to stop in Djibouti for inspection by the Saudi-led coalition. They also wanted the plane to evacuate some of their wounded to Oman or Europe.

Griffith said he believed he was close to resolving preparatory issues to allow the talks in Sweden to happen.

"I am grateful to the coalition for agreeing our proposed logistical arrangements, and to the coalition and Oman for their agreement to facilitate the medical evacuation of some injured Yemenis out of Sanaa," he told the 15-member Security Council.

Griffiths also said the parties were about to conclude an agreement on the exchange of prisoners and detainees.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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