Sweden set to host Yemen peace talks as coalition agrees Houthi wounded evacuation
06 December, 2018, 13:47
The proposed UN-brokered peace talks have been backed by both the rebels and the Saudi-led government and were expected to take place in Sweden this week.
Sweden's foreign ministry has yet to announce the venue of the talks, which will focus on reopening Sanaa airport and securing a prisoner swap and a ceasefire in Hodeidah port city, a lifeline for millions that is now a focus of the war.
Peace talks between Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Houthi rebels are set to begin on Thursday in Sweden, the United Nations announced, after weeks of worldwide pressure to get the warring sides to negotiate towards an end to the conflict.
A 12-member government delegation, led by Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Yamani, arrived in Stockholm Wednesday evening, one day after a Houthi delegation flew in from Sanaa - accompanied by the United Nations envoy.
Yemen talks set to start in Sweden after wounded Houthis evacuated
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told CBC News an arms deal signed with Saudi Arabia by the Conservative government that preceded him in Ottawa "makes it very hard to suspend or leave that contract", without offering a lot of specifics.
A Kuwaiti passenger jet carrying the Houthi team accompanied by United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths left the Houthi-held capital Sanaa for Sweden, a Reuters reporter said.
The almost four-year-old conflict, which has killed thousands and spawned the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis, pits the Iranian-aligned Houthis against other Yemeni forces backed by a coalition loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Fifty wounded Houthi militants in Yemen's rebel-held capital, Sana'a, will be evacuated to Muscat for treatment on Monday, a Saudi-led military coalition said, calling it a "confidence-building" measure before planned peace talks in Sweden.
The head of the 12-member Houthi delegation, Mohammed Abdelsalam, said it would "spare no effort to make a success of the talks to restore peace and end the aggression".
However scepticism around the proposed negotiations remains, after previous talks broke down in September after Saudi Arabia refused to allow a Houthi delegation to fly to Geneva to attend the meeting.
"This is one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust among Yemeni communities", ICRC spokeswoman Mirella Hodeib said. Three-quarters of impoverished Yemen's population, or 22 million people, require aid.
Outrage over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has increased scrutiny of Riyadh's activities in the region, potentially giving Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition greater leverage to demand action.
"The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen", he said.
Pressure to bring the war in Yemen to an end has risen in recent months amid a worsening humanitarian crisis that has resulted in the deaths of some 85,000 children due to malnutrition, according to Save the Children.
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