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Sun 16 Oct 2016 06:44 PM

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US, Britain call for immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Yemen

US Secretary of State John Kerry said if both sides agreed, special envoy to the UN, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, would work through the details

US, Britain call for immediate, unconditional ceasefire in Yemen
United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. (AFP/Getty Images)

The United States and Britain
called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to end
violence between Iran-backed Houthis and the government, which is supported by
Gulf states.

A Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under heavy
criticism since an air strike on a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital
Sanaa that killed 140 people according to a United Nations' estimate and 82
according to the Houthis.

On Saturday, a US admiral said a destroyer had again been
targeted in the Red Sea in an apparent failed missile attack launched from the
coast of Yemen.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said if Yemen's opposing
sides accepted the ceasefire then the special envoy to the UN, Ismail Ould
Cheikh Ahmed, would work through the details and announce when and how it would
take effect.

"This is the time to implement a ceasefire
unconditionally and then move to the negotiating table," Kerry told
reporters.

"We cannot emphasise enough today the urgency of
ending the violence in Yemen," he said after meeting British foreign
minister, Boris Johnson, and other officials in London.

Kerry said they were calling for the implementation of
the ceasefire "as rapidly as possible, meaning Monday, Tuesday".

The UN's special envoy said he had been in contact with
the Houthi's lead negotiator and the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour
Hadi. He also said he hoped for "clearer plans" for a ceasefire in
the coming days

Johnson said the conflict in Yemen was "causing
increasing international concern; the fatalities that we're seeing there are
unacceptable".

"There should be a ceasefire and the UN should lead
the way in calling for that ceasefire."

Their call came after meetings in London with Saudi
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and senior UAE officials.

Kerry met Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on
Saturday in Switzerland on the sidelines of Syria talks.

"It is a crisis now of enormous proportions with an
increasing economic, increasing humanitarian and health crisis, and obviously
the military components are troubling to everybody," Kerry said.

He added that the release of two American prisoners by
Yemen's Houthi and the evacuation of Yemeni civilians wounded in a Saudi
airstrike were "an important humanitarian gesture by the Saudis to address
the humanitarian concern".