October 7, 2016 / 3:46 PM / 3 years ago

U.N. envoy hopes to announce Yemen ceasefire deal soon

People gather at the site of a Saudi-led air strike on an oil tanker truck near the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen October 8, 2016. REUTERS/Naif Rahma

MUSCAT (Reuters) - The United Nations’ envoy for Yemen said on Friday after meeting with Houthi forces in Oman that he hoped to announce a ceasefire in the conflict in the next few days.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, speaking to Oman’s state news agency ONA, said Houthi representatives and their allies had said a ceasefire was necessary. But he added he had yet to meet with exiled Yemen President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to discuss the matter.

“They were long and positive meetings, which make me optimistic. They have agreed during them to accept a ceasefire for 72 hours in Yemen which could be extended,” he told ONA.

He would meet President Hadi in Saudi Arabia later on Friday, he said.

Hadi’s internationally-recognised government, which is supported by an alliance of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia, is battling the Houthis who took over the Yemeni capital Sanaa in September 2014.

The Houthis toughened demands this week for the resumption of peace talks to end the 19-month-old civil war, saying Hadi must go and an agreement must be reached on the presidency, complicating United Nations efforts to bring the parties back to talks.

A shaky ceasefire between the government and the Iran-aligned Houthis, took effect in April and brought some respite from the war, which started when the rebels pushed the government into exile in March 2015.

Peace talks broke down in August, though, and Saudi-led air strikes on the Houthis have resumed.

Separately, a Yemeni man was killed and two others, including a child, were wounded in Saudi Arabia’s southern Jizan province by a shell fired by Houthi forces from inside Yemen, Saudi state news agency SPA reported on Friday.

Reporting by Fatma Al Arimi in Muscat and Mostafa Hashem in Cairo, Editing by Angus MacSwan

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