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Yemeni government says ready for peace talks with Houthis

Saudi foreign ministry hails Yemeni President Hadi's 'readiness to resume political consultations' with Shia rebels
Yemeni demonstrators protest outside the United Nations office in the capital Sanaa on 18 October 2015, against ongoing military operations and airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen (AFP)

The Yemeni government has agreed to participate in UN-sponsored talks with rebels aimed at ending the country's conflict, spokesman Rajeh Badi said on Monday.

Saudi Arabia, which since March has led a coalition air campaign against Zaidi Shia Houthi fighters in support of the government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, welcomed Yemen's decision.

Talks are to convene in Geneva at the end of October, Reuters reported.

The UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, wrote on Facebook that he had managed to convince the parties to take part in talks.

"While offering thanks to all parties, the United Nations calls for more flexibility, for opportunities may not be conducive after this time," he wrote.

"Yes, we have agreed to take part [in the talks]," Badi said, confirming the agreement.

He confirmed over the weekend that Ahmed had delivered an invitation to fresh talks with Houthis and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.  

Badi declined to comment on whether Hadi's government had been given any guarantees over its demand for the withdrawal of rebels from territories seized across Yemen.

UN Security Council Resolution 2216 calls for the withdrawal of rebel forces from captured territories and for them to lay down their arms.

The Saudi foreign ministry "hailed" Hadi's declared "readiness to resume political consultations," according to a statement carried by SPA state news agency.

It also described the reported decision of the Houthis to accept Resolution 2216 as a "step in the right direction towards ending the Yemen crisis".

Around 4,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict since March.

A first attempt to hold peace talks in Geneva in June between pro-government forces and Houthis collapsed without the warring parties even sitting down in the same room.

Last month, Hadi's government backed away from UN-sponsored talks that were to be held in Oman, insisting the rebels first withdraw from captured territory.

The Houthis overran the capital Sanaa unopposed in September 2014 and went on to battle for control of several regions, aided by troops loyal to Saleh.

In July, loyalist forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition evicted the rebels from five southern provinces and have since set their sights on Sanaa.

Around 500 Sudanese soldiers landed on Monday in the southern port city of Aden, joining hundreds of others who arrived over the weekend to take part in coalition operations, a Yemeni military official said.

The official said the force that disembarked at Aden's refinery terminal will participate in securing Aden and in the advance on the central city of Taiz.

Sudan is part of the coalition backing the internationally recognised government, but so far Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have contributed the bulk of forces.