The U.N. special envoy for Yemen who will be leading peace talks next week between the government and Shiite rebels says peace has never been as close as it is today.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the recent cession of hostilities and a commitment by both sides to next week's talks highlight the potential for peace.

He urged both sides to use the talks starting Monday in Kuwait to "drop their destructive and belligerent attitudes," and restore peace after more than 18 months of war.

Ahmed told the U.N. Security Council on Friday that he is hopeful despite "a worrying number of serious violations" of the cessation of hostilities that went into effect at midnight April 10.

Yemen's conflict pits the government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, against Shiite Houthi rebels who are allied with a former president.