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Yemen's exiled government controls 70 percent of country: Minister

Deputy PM says he has had 'assurances' from allies on the US Security Council that the Houthis will abide by trust-building measures
A member of the resistance, who are fighting the Houthis on the ground, in Taiz (AFP)

A member of Yemen’s internationally recognised government has said his forces are now in control of 70 percent of the country.

Abdel Malik al-Mikhlafi, who serves as foreign minister in the exiled government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, gave a lengthy interview on Sunday ahead of a new round of peace talks scheduled to start in Geneva on 14 January.

"The situation on the ground is now under the authority of the legitimate government," Mikhlafi said, referring to Hadi's exiled government, which has been operating mainly from the Saudi capital Riyadh since it was forced to leave Yemen months ago.

His comments to Saudi-owned news site al-Sharq al-Awsat were published just hours after Saudi forces intercepted a Scud missile fired from the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Sunday morning.

Mikhlafi, who is also deputy prime minister, said he had received “assurances” from Yemen’s allies on the UN Security Council that they would ensure that the Houthis abide by trust-building measures to allow the talks to go ahead.

These measures include abiding to a ceasefire, “stopping media incitement” and releasing all political prisoners including Defence Minister Mahmoud Salim al-Sabihi and Hadi’s brother, who are both prisoners of the Houthis.

In an exclusive published this weekend, MEE's Nawal Al-Maghafi, who covered the latest six-day talks between the government and the Houthis in Switzerland, said that during those talks the government tried to portray the Houthis as not talking negotiations seriously while simultaneously escalating fighting on the ground.

Yemeni sources last week told local news site al-Mashhad that the Houthis had already handed over about 280 fighters from the other side who were captured during the Houthi advance in southern Yemen last spring.

An advisor to Hadi, Yassin Makawi, also said on Sunday that deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh, an ally of the Houthis, is prepared to accept all his opponents’ demands in return for safe passage out of Yemen.

Saleh, who was toppled in 2012 after Yemen’s Arab Spring-style protests, became the only former ruler deposed during a region-wide string of uprisings to remain in the country he used to rule.