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Faltering Yemen peace talks extended for week, Kuwait says

Announcement made as 7 Saudi troops killed in border clashes with Iran-backed Houthi rebels
United Nations envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who held talks with both delegations on Saturday (AFP/file photo)

UN-brokered Yemen peace talks have been extended for one week, host Kuwait said on Saturday, after seven Saudi troops were killed in border clashes with Iran-backed Yemeni rebels.

The Saudis died after Shia Houthi rebels backed by soldiers loyal to the former president tried to infiltrate the southern Najran area of the kingdom, said the Riyadh-led coalition fighting in Yemen.

"An officer and six soldiers of the Saudi armed forces fell martyrs," it said in a statement carried by state media, adding that dozens of rebels were killed.

Southern Saudi Arabia has come under sporadic attack since March 2015, when Riyadh took the lead in an Arab military coalition battling the Houthi rebels who control northern Yemen.

Hours after the clashes, Kuwait's foreign ministry announced peace talks would be extended until 7 August in a statement cited by the official KUNA news agency.

They would have ended without result on Saturday after the government delegation decided to pull out.

United Nations envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed held talks with both delegations on Saturday and proposed a framework for a comprehensive settlement.

"I met today with both delegations [and] suggested a one-week extension to the talks," Ould Cheikh Ahmed wrote on Twitter.

He said he also proposed a "framework for a solution to the crisis in Yemen," without elaborating.

Sources from the two delegations told AFP the proposed settlement is based on the withdrawal of rebels from territory they occupied in 2014, the handover of weapons and a return of state institutions.

Yemen's government delegation to the talks had said it was planning on leaving Kuwait later on Saturday after the Houthi rebels and their allies announced the creation of a council to run the country.

"There can be no more talks after the new coup," delegation spokesman Mohammad al-Emrani told AFP on Friday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman criticised the move, saying the "unilateral decision was not in line with the peace process and endangered substantial progress".

The Houthi rebels and the General People's Congress of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on Thursday jointly announced setting up a 10-member "supreme political council".

Its job will be to "manage state affairs politically, militarily, economically, administratively, socially and in security," a statement said.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the ambassadors of 18 other nations backing peace in Yemen also called for a resumption of peace talks in separate statements.

They also condemned the formation of the "supreme political council".

Indirect negotiations in Kuwait since April have failed to make headway. Most of the discussions focused on the type of the transition government to run Yemen.

More than 6,400 people have been killed in the Arabian Peninsula state since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in March last year in support of the government of Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Another 2.8 million people have been displaced and more than 80 percent of the population urgently needs humanitarian aid, according to UN figures.

Meanwhile, a police officer was killed on Saturday when a bomb blew up his car in Yemen's second city Aden, a security official said.

Further east, gunmen on a motorbike shot dead an officer in the town of Shibam in Hadramawt province, a military official said.