Monday, 17 December, 2018

Yemen government team heads to crunch peace talks with rebels

A Yemeni rebel delegation accompanied by UN peace envoy arrived in Sweden Tuesday for peace talks A Yemeni rebel delegation accompanied by UN peace envoy arrived in Sweden Tuesday for peace talks
Pablo Mccormick | 05 December, 2018, 14:14

The comments from the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the pro-government coalition fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen, came as UN envoy Martin Griffiths is in the rebel-held capital Sanaa seeking to push forward the planned talks.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), another key backer of the government, said the planned talks offered a "critical opportunity" to end almost four years of war.

"Griffiths was true to his word".

"The Houthi delegation has arrived to Sweden, together with Special Envoys from UN, Sweden and Kuwait for planned consultations on Yemen", Margot Wallström said in a tweet.

Also on Monday, the Houthi rebels said they were informed by Griffiths that the coalition had signed a prisoner swap deal, which the Houthis signed in November.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said on Tuesday that the Sweden talks, set to be held in a renovated castle outside Stockholm, are a "critical opportunity".

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"A sustainable Yemeni-led political solution offers the best chance to ending the current crisis".

"A stable state, important for the region, can not coexist with unlawful militias", he said.

A previous UN-brokered attempt to bring the Huthis and the Saudi-backed government to the negotiating table collapsed in Switzerland in September.

On Monday, about 50 wounded Houthi rebels were evacuated from the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and flown to Oman to receive treatment.

The Houthis and the Yemeni government also agreed earlier in the day on Tuesday to exchange hundreds of prisoners that have been captured by each of the opposing sides since the war began.

Abdullah Al-Alimy, head of Yemen's Presidency Office, said on his official Twitter account that the government delegation will put the concerns and aspirations of the Yemeni people as the priority. The rebel group had wanted guarantees its fighters would be able to leave and return to Yemen safely, among other demands.

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The deal was struck by Griffiths, who was in the rebel-held capital Sanaa for meetings already buoyed by the evacuation of the wounded insurgents - a key rebel precondition for the talks.

The coalition has largely suspended its offensive on Hodeidah in the face of US-led calls for a ceasefire and new peace talks. "The situation here does not make us optimistic that we will avoid war", Mohammed Taher, a 51-year-old government employee, told Reuters.

Inter-Yemeni talks initially scheduled in Sweden starting tomorrow could instead begin on December 6 or in the subsequent days, well-informed sources were quoted as saying by pan Arab daily al-Hayat, published by Saudi Arabia, which is involved in the Yemeni conflict.

The United Nations has described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian disaster, with at least 10,000 people killed since a Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Huthis in 2015.

The US issued a statement urging both parties to engage in the talks in earnest and to cease any ongoing hostilities that have flared up in recent weeks, referring to the intensification of clashes along the west coast and around the port city of Hodeidah.

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