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Yemen's Houthis prepared to withdraw from flashpoint city of Aden: Sources

Sources tell Saudi-owned newspaper that President Hadi was advised by 'regional parties' to attend Geneva peace talks from 14 June
Southern separatist fighters opposing the Houthis take up positions in the blockaded city of Aden (AFP)

Houthi fighters are prepared to withdraw from the key Yemeni city of Aden in line with a UN Resolution aimed at ending the nine-week bloody conflict, according to local sources.

A Yemeni official spoke to Saudi-owned daily al-Sharq al-Awsat on Thursday, saying that Houthi leaders had informed the new UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Wuld al-Sheikh Ahmed, of their willingness to withdraw from Aden ahead of peace talks expected to begin on 14 June.

A source confirmed to Middle East Eye on Wednesday that the Houthis are prepared to withdraw from territory they have seized in exchange for being dropped from the UN sanctions list.

The port city of Aden, the largest in southern Yemen, has been devastated by nine weeks of war, with Yemeni officials warning on Wednesday that it had become completely blockaded.

The city has seen fierce battles on the ground between armed supporters of the Houthis and a local opposition force known as the Popular Resistance.

Aden has also been shelled from the sea, as the Saudi-led coalition attempts to prevent the Houthis from gaining control over Bab al-Mandab, a key shipping gateway that is thought to carry more than 3.4 million barrels of oil every day.

The UN Security Council in April passed Resolution 2216, which imposed tough sanctions on the Houthis and “individuals undermining the stability of Yemen”.

Included in the sanctions list were Abdel Malik al-Houthi, who leads the group, and Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, son of deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh and former Yemeni ambassador to the UAE.

The UN is now hoping to sponsor peace talks in Geneva beginning on 14 June.

The talks were postponed last week after the Yemeni government, led by president-in-exile Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, refused to participate, demanding that the Houthis withdraw from areas under their control and give up their weapons before coming to the negotiating table.

The government, which has been operating from Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh since the start of the Saudi-led bombing campaign against the Houthis, has now agreed to attend the Geneva talks despite the Houthis’ refusal to give up their weapons.

A source told al-Sharq al-Awsat that the turnaround came after President Hadi received “advice from various regional and international parties”.

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