Iranian FM in Pakistan calls for peace talks on Yemen crisis

Iran's top diplomat met with Pakistan's prime minister on Thursday in an effort to push for peace talks to resolve the crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led airstrikes' campaign supported by Islamabad is battling a power grab by Iranian-backed Shiite rebels.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif were to discuss the Yemeni conflict, state-run Pakistani media reported.

Zarif, who arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, has said that Iran is ready to facilitate peace talks that would lead to a broad-based government in Yemen. He also called for a cease-fire to allow for humanitarian assistance.

"We need to work together in order to put an end to the crisis in Yemen," Zarif said. "We need to find a political solution in Yemen, a comprehensive political solution leading an inclusive government through Yemeni dialogue."

Zarif's visit comes as Pakistan's parliament is debating whether to contribute forces to the Saudi-led air campaign against Yemen's Houthi rebels. The airstrikes campaign was in its 14th day on Thursday.

The airstrikes against the Houthis and their allies, including loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have so far failed to stop the rebels' advance on Aden, Yemen's second-largest city, which was declared a provisional capital by President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi before he fled to Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis have seized much of the country, but both Tehran and the rebels deny Iran is arming them.

Humanitarian groups in Yemen say they are running out of supplies and have called for a temporary halt to the fighting to allow aid into the country. The World Health Organization said Tuesday at least 560 people have been killed in the past weeks and 1,768 have been wounded, many of them civilians. It said another 100,000 have fled their homes.

Iran dispatched a naval destroyer and another logistic vessel on Wednesday to waters near Yemen as the United States quickened weapons supply to the Saudi-led coalition striking rebels there, underlining how foreign powers are deepening their involvement in the conflict.

Iran's English-language state broadcaster Press TV quoted Rear Adm. Habibollah Sayyari as saying the ships would be part of an anti-piracy campaign "safeguarding naval routes for vessels in the region."

In Pakistan, Zarif also called for a ceasefire to allow aid and humanitarian assistance. But the political solution is "up to the Yemenis," he said.

"We can only facilitate as neighbors, as countries in the region, as countries with some influence one way or another," Zarif said.