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Yemen flare-ups jeopardise peace negotiations

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– Both sides in Yemen’s eight-year war have accused each other of attacks that break a relative lull in fighting and jeopardise peace talks that had been gathering momentum.

Yemen’s Houthi movement has battled a Saudi-led coalition since 2015 in a conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands and left 80% of the population dependent on aid.

Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdulsalam said the coalition killed 12 of the group’s soldiers in the last month along the Saudi border. “While we consider incidents of truce violation to be regrettable … we stress the importance of entering into a phase of serious peace,” he told Reuters.

The Iran-aligned Houthis were responding to accusations of killing two Bahraini army personnel and wounding several others on Monday in a drone attack on Saudi Arabia’s southern border.

The Saudi-led alliance condemned that and said it followed other Houthi attacks on a power distribution unit and a police station near the border.

“Such repeated hostile and provocative actions are not consistent with the positive efforts that are being made to seek an end to the crisis,” coalition spokesperson General Turki al-Malki said.

The United States also condemned the attack, said State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, who said U.S. officials were in touch with Bahraini counterparts.

“This unprovoked attack threatens the longest period of calm since the war in Yemen began,” Miller said at a press briefing, reiterating that only an agreement between Yemenis could resolve the conflict.

U.N. Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint and said military tensions at the Yemeni border had led to casualties, including civilian loss of life, over the past months.

“Any renewal of offensive military escalation risks plunging Yemen back into a cycle of violence and undermines ongoing peace efforts,” Grundberg said

Yemen had enjoyed a year of relative calm as negotiations gain traction. Saudi and Houthi officials met for five days in Riyadh earlier this month and are due to convene again.

Bahrain’s state news agency BNA said a military ceremony was held after the two servicemen’s bodies arrived on Tuesday.

Coalition ally the United Arab Emirates said the attack on Bahraini soldiers showed a disregard for international law and required “a deterrent response”.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi intervened in Yemen’s civil war after the Houthis swept into the capital Sanaa and ousted an internationally recognised government in 2014.

Peace negotiations are focused on a full reopening of Houthi-controlled ports and Sanaa airport, payment of wages for public servants, rebuilding efforts, and a timeline for foreign forces to leave.

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