Sweden talks critical opportunity for Yemen peace

Police cars are seen in front of Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo Sweden Wednesday. — Reuters

Police cars are seen in front of Johannesberg Castle in Rimbo Sweden Wednesday. — Reuters

The development came one day after 50 wounded Houthi fighters were allowed to fly to Oman for treatment as part of a series of confidence-building measures.

The US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said: "We have no illusions, and we know that this process will not be easy, but we welcome this first necessary and vital step".

Envoy Martin Griffiths had been in Sanaa for meetings to evacuate the 50 wounded Houthi fighters for treatment in neutral Oman on Monday - a key Houthi precondition for the talks.

Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah told reporters that a Houthi delegation was now set to leave Sanaa for Stockholm on Tuesday morning together with his country's ambassador to Yemen.

Dr. Abdullah al-Alimi, heading the Yemeni presidential office and a member of the negotiating delegation, said that the delegation of the Yemeni government will carry the hopes of the Yemeni people to achieve sustainable peace based on ending the coup and eliminating all the reasons that led to it.

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 head of the 12-member rebel delegation, Mohammed Abdelsalam, said it would "spare no effort to make a success of the talks to restore peace and end the aggression".

A previous attempt by Griffiths to convene peace talks in Switzerland in September collapsed when militia failed to show up. Overall, 24 million people in Yemen - roughly 75 per cent of the population - will need humanitarian assistance in 2019.

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Thousands of prisoners have been captured by both sides in the grinding war of attrition that has devastated Yemen at a cost of almost 10,000 lives since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in March 2015, according to World Health Organization figures.

Skau would not confirm the location of the talks, but said they will be "near" the Swedish capital, Stockholm.

World Food Programme chief David Beasley said in Geneva that an upcoming food security report would show an increase in severe hunger rates in Yemen - where a child dies every 11 minutes - but not necessarily meet the criteria of starvation.

The coalition has largely suspended its offensive on Hodeida in the face of US-led calls for a ceasefire and new peace talks.

The UN envoy arrived in Sana'a on Monday in a bid to pave the way for peace talks, which come after almost four years of war that have led to displacement, food insecurity, outbreaks of cholera and diphtheria across the country.

Outrage over the October 2 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has intensified worldwide scrutiny of Saudi activities in the region, potentially giving Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, more leverage to demand action.

But fresh fighting flared on Monday and the coalition spokesman said military operations were "ongoing".

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