U.N. mediator to visit Kuwait, Riyadh in search of Yemen deal

United Nations envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed talks to reporters upon arrival at the international airport of Sanaa, Yemen May 29, 2015. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations envoy will hold talks in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the coming days on a draft peace proposal for Yemen with the aim of reaching a "preliminary agreement" with Houthi fighters, a U.N. spokesman said on Friday. More than 2,800 people have been killed in Yemen during three months of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition, including Kuwait, that aims to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi who is currently living in exile in the Saudi capital Riyadh. Iranian-backed Houthi fighters control large areas of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa. U.N.-sponsored talks in Geneva on a ceasefire between Yemen's warring parties broke up a week ago without a deal as the coalition staged further airstrikes. U.N. envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who led the Geneva talks, will travel to Kuwait on Saturday and then spend a week in Riyadh before moving on to Sanaa for a further week of consultations, U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi told reporters. "He intends to spend more time in the two capitals (Riyadh and Sanaa) to discuss the draft principles paper which was developed here in Geneva - as he said, 'until we reach a preliminary agreement'," said U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawzi. "As you know, before leaving us here in Geneva, he said both sides had shown signs of constructive engagement regarding the possibility of reaching a humanitarian truce and that there was emerging common ground upon which to build an eventual ceasefire coupled with the withdrawal of combatants," Fawzi told a news briefing in Geneva. The United Nations has estimated that more than 21 million people, or 80 percent of the Yemeni population, are now in need of humanitarian assistance. The U.N. Security Council and U.N. aid chief Stephen O'Brien pressed on Thursday for more aid and commercial access to Yemen, where a near-total blockade by Saudi Arabia has slowed shipments to the Arabian Peninsula country to a trickle. The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday it would provide essential medicines for treating non-communicable diseases such as heart and chronic respiratory illnesses for more than one million people in Yemen for six months. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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