Thursday, 13 December, 2018


Yemen rebels head to Sweden for key peace talks

This is where the high-stake Yemen peace talks will take place Yemen peace talks in Sweden a ‘vital first step’ says Washington
Bennie Garza | 05 December, 2018, 18:40

Yemen's warring parties will meet in Sweden this week for another attempt at talks aimed at halting their catastrophic three-year-old war, but there are few incentives for major compromises, and the focus is likely to be on firming up a shaky de-escalation.

"The UN special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, communicated to us that coalition forces and the Yemeni [self-proclaimed] government have also signed the prisoner exchange agreement that was signed in November by the Houthis", he said.

The Houthi delegation arrived there on Tuesday, having failed to turn up for previous talks in Geneva in September. They had asked for assurances that it would not be stopped for inspection in Djibouti and they also wanted some of their injured fighters to be evacuated to Oman or Europe.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, who back Yemen's embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, had agreed the 50 wounded combatants, 50 escorts and a team of Yemeni and United Nations doctors could be flown out to Muscat - a condition set by the Houthis for negotiations.

"I don't expect much from this round", said Baligh al-Makhlafy, a Yemeni pro-government analyst attending the talks as a technical consultant.

The coalition spokesman said military operations in Hodeida were "ongoing" on Monday.

This will be the first step to end this humanitarian issue, ' said Abdul Qader al-Mortada, the head of the rebel-affiliated National Committee for Prisoners Affairs.

The executive director of the UN's World Food Program, David Beasley, said Tuesday that 12 million people suffer from "severe hunger".

The government delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani.

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.

The group has agreed to travel on a plane provided by Kuwait, a source familiar with the talks said.

Additional momentum has come from the mounting Western pressure on Saudi Arabia since the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate on October 2. "A stable state, important for the region, can not coexist with unlawful militias".

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are leading a Sunni coalition that began an air campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen in March 2015.

The resolution demands that the rebels recognise the legitimacy of Hadi's government and withdraw from all towns and cities they had taken, including Sanaa.

The coalition, which has previously called on the Houthis to entirely quit Hodeidah, last month renewed an offensive on the city to weaken the movement by severing their main supply line.

The UN envoy said on Monday that he was "pleased to confirm" the evacuation and "urged all Yemenis to work together in pursuit of peace".

A British push for the UN Security Council to take action on the humanitarian crisis has slowed because several member states are wary of impeding the peace talks.

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