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No Major Breakthroughs in Yemen Peace Talks


U.N. Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C) opens the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland, Dec. 15, 2015.

U.N. Secretary-General Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed (C) opens the Yemen peace talks in Switzerland, Dec. 15, 2015.

United Nations-brokered peace talks on Yemen ended Sunday with a broad agreement that the war has to end, but no major breakthroughs.

U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said after the Geneva talks that officials from Yemen's recognized government and the Houthi rebels will meet again next month.

Ahmed told reporters that fighting and shelling continued even as both sides fruitlessly sought a way to stop it.

"It is very clear that, unfortunately, the cease-fire that was agreed upon... wasn't respected and, in some cases, was violated from the first hours of these talks. We will aim... in the coming days to make every single effort to ensure that a new cease-fire is put in place," Ahmed said.

Yemeni officials say recent fighting has killed at least 68 people in Hajjah province near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Yemen's foreign minister, Abdel Malak al-Mekhlafi, later said a cease-fire officially set to expire Monday will be extended another week if the Houthi rebels respect the truce.

Despite the failure to reach any major agreements in Geneva, both sides did agree on what Ahmed calls confidence-building measures. They include an eventual prisoner exchange and pledges for the safe and quick delivery of humanitarian aid to the most hard hit areas.

Yemen's current crisis erupted in September 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sana'a, forcing President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi's government to flee first to the southern port of Aden - and then exile in Saudi Arabia after the rebels took over the port.

Yemeni forces, backed by Saudi-led airstrikes, have since retaken Aden, but Yemen's capital is still under rebel control.

The airstrikes and fighting on the ground have killed close to 6,000 people and created a severe humanitarian disaster in Yemen. U.N. experts say close to 80 percent of the population is in dire need of food and basic health care.

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