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Yemen's Taiz to receive humanitarian aid, says UN

UN hails breakthrough on third day of peace talks, with aid to arrive to besieged city 'within the coming days'
Fighting has continued in Taiz, despite an agreed general ceasefire (AFP)

A deal to immediately resume humanitarian aid to the besieged Yemeni city of Taiz has been agreed at peace talks between the warring sides in Switzerland, the United Nations has said.

The UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, welcomed the agreement on Thursday as "a major step forward that will ensure immediate action to alleviate the human suffering of the Yemeni people," according to a statement from the UN, which is sponsoring the talks.

"A large UN convoy, carrying essential humanitarian supplies, reached the most affected districts of the city of Taiz and will start distributing assistance to those in need in the coming days," the statement said. 

"It is expected that humanitarian assistance will also reach Hajja, Saada and other deprived Yemeni cities in the coming days."

Traiz has been besieged by Houthi rebels fro several months, and fighting has continued in the city despite a general ceasefire started on Tuesday, jeopardising peace talks in Switzerland. 

Any humanitarian deliveries would have to pass through a network of Houthi strongpoints around the city.

While hailed as a success in Switzerland, it is not the first successful shipment to Taiz. The UN reported on December 11 that its World Food Programme had sent supplies into the city enough for 145,000 people for a month.

But the deal comes on the third day of talks aimed at bringing an end to the conflict between forces a Saudi-led coalition backing President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi's government, and Houthis and renegade troops still loyal to wealthy ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Fierce clashes and air strikes have continued to rock Yemen despite delegates still being locked in the talks.

Hadi forces seized a key military base from Houthi fighters on Thursday in the central city of Marib, local officials and tribesmen told Reuters.

According to the sources, 15 people were killed on both sides. Fighting was also reported further to the north, in the border province of Jawf, Yemeni sources told MEE.

Saudi coalition planes and gunboats also reportedly bombed targets in northern Yemen, local residents said.

MEE's Nawal al-Maghafi is in Switzerland at the talks and gave an update on Thursday afternoon about how the thorny negotiations are progressing, if at all. 

The UN said issues on the agenda over the coming days would include developing a plan for a sustainable ceasefire and the release of prisoners on both sides.

More than 5,800 people have been killed in Yemen - about half of them civilians - and more than 27,000 wounded since March, according to the UN.