U.N., U.S. welcome Yemen truce amid Saudi talks

STORY: United Nations and United States envoys have welcomed unilateral truces called by both of Yemen's warring sides.

The Saudi-led coalition said it would temporarily halt military operations from Wednesday (March 30).

That was after the Iran-aligned Houthis declared a three day cessation of cross-border attacks and ground offensives.

It's the most significant step in peace efforts for more than three years. Seven years of war have killed tens of thousands in Yemen and pushed millions into hunger.

The U.N. had called for a truce during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts this week.

The U.N. and U.S. envoys stressed the need for a more comprehensive ceasefire, speaking at talks hosted by Saudi Arabia of allied factions.

The Houthis say they will only attend talks if they are held in a neutral country.

This was the U.N.'s special envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, in Riyadh on Wednesday:

“I have been encouraged by the enthusiastic participation of Yemeni political parties, components, experts, and civil society representatives in this process. Across the plurality of voices, a common message has emerged, Yemenis want the war to end, and they want a just and durable peace."

U.S. special envoy Tim Lenderking told the gathering in Riyadh that the unilateral announcements were a step in the right direction.

The two envoys have been pressing Riyadh to ease coalition sea and air restrictions on areas held by the Houthis, who ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene months later.

They have also urged the Houthis to end an offensive in energy-producing Marib, the internationally recognized government's last stronghold in North Yemen.

A permanent ceasefire has proved elusive, with both sides resisting compromise. The conflict is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.