UN Envoy to Yemen hands peace plan outline to rival parties

SANAA, Yemen (AP) " The United Nations envoy to Yemen has handed an outline for a peace plan to Houthi rebels in control of the capital which includes depriving their rival, President Abed-Rabbo Mansour Hadi, of his authorities and the withdrawal of militias from major cities, a Houthi-affiliated politician said Tuesday.

Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed left Sanaa after a three-day visit aimed at pushing for an end the country's 19-month conflict that has killed thousands.

He held meetings with the Houthi rebels and their allies of the General People's Congress, the onetime ruling party of Yemen under ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is accused of aiding Houthis in their takeover of the capital in 2014 after descending from their northern enclave. Together, they forced the internationally-recognized government of Hadi to flee the country and seek Arab military intervention.

In March last year, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of mostly Arab states to wage an air campaign aimed at dislodging Houthis and restoring Hadi's government. The airstrikes coupled with a tight blockade imposed by the US-backed coalition pushed the country to the verge of famine.

According to a statement by Ahmed's office, the UN envoy presented "a written roadmap that addresses security and political arrangements." The statement said that Houthis and their allies said they will give their response in the coming days.

He gave no details on the road map.

According to the Houthi-affiliated politician, the peace plan also includes transferring the powers of the internationally-recognized president to a new prime minister and a vice president, in addition to the formation of a national unity government, while easing out Houthis from cities under their control. The deal also suggests the formation of a team of international observers to supervise the militias' withdrawal. It proposes a one to two-year-transitional period paving the way for presidential elections.

The politician spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

It is not clear whether Hadi's government would approve the proposed plan.

Previous rounds of peace talks have failed, including one in August after the two sides differed on the agenda. Houthis pushed for a national unity government before withdrawal while Hadi's government demanded implementation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that stipulated disarmament of Houthi militias.

In his statement, Ahmed urged rival parties to "cooperate fully and swiftly to support political alternatives to secure lasting peace guided by a conviction that violence is never a viable solution."

His visit comes after the expiration of a three-day truce that followed a lethal bombing by the Saudi-led coalition on Oct. 8 that left around 140 dead and over 600 wounded when warplanes struck a packed funeral in Sanaa in daylight. The bombing followed missile attacks targeting a US destroyer in the Red Sea. The escalation appeared to prompt the U.S. and international community to push for a peaceful settlement.

"Yemeni men and women have found themselves trapped in a deadly crossfire for too long and they are paying the price for the indiscriminate violence in the country. This must stop," the UN envoy said in the statement.

This story has been automatically published from the Associated Press wire which uses US spellings

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