Wednesday, 19 December, 2018

Yemen crisis: Government team heads to Sweden for talks with Houthi rebels

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated Sweden set to host Yemen peace talks as coalition agrees Houthi wounded evacuation
Jeannette Daniel | 06 December, 2018, 13:42

No date has been announced for the start of the negotiations, but Yemeni government sources said they could begin on Thursday.

His comments came after renewed deadly clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, which is vital for the flow of humanitarian aid.

The talks mark the first meeting between Yemen's legitimate government and Houthi militants, backed by Iran, since 2016, when 106 days of negotiations yielded no breakthrough in a war that has pushed 14 million people to the brink of starvation.

Members of a Yemeni rebel delegation prepare to fly accompanied by a United Nations peace envoy, heading for high-stakes talks in Sweden with the government aimed at ending the country's devastating war, on 4 December 2018 in Sanaa.

The Western-backed alliance intervened in the war in 2015 to restore Hadi's government, which was ousted from Sanaa in 2014, but has bogged down in military stalemate.

Yemeni Houthi officials are expected to travel to Sweden shortly for talks as early as Wednesday to end the almost four-year-old war after the Saudi-led coalition allowed the evacuation of some of their wounded for treatment.

"If the Yemeni capital's airport is not opened to the Yemeni people in the peace talks in Sweden, I call on the (Houthi) political council and government to close the airport for all planes", Mohammed Ali al-Houthi tweeted.

United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths secured some new measures, including the evacuation of Houthi wounded, to help persuade the rebel movement to attend the talks.

Yemen war: Wounded Houthis rebels to be evacuated

"This is one step in the right direction towards the building of mutual trust among Yemeni communities", ICRC spokeswoman Mirella Hodeib said.

Hadi's government is expected to follow the group, whose attendance was secured after the evacuation of 50 wounded Houthis for treatment in Oman on Monday.

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

A government team, headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, was expected in Sweden on Wednesday.

Western powers, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, may have greater leverage to demand action on Yemen after outrage over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh's consulate in Istanbul increased scrutiny of the kingdom's activities in the region.

The war has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis in recent times. Three-quarters of impoverished Yemen's population, or 22 million people, require aid.

"The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen", he said.

The coalition said in a statement it had agreed on the evacuation "for humanitarian considerations and as part of confidence-building measures" ahead of the talks, which are also due to focus on a transitional governing body.

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