Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden

Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden

The reduction of violence, Sanaa Airport, humanitarian access and economic challenges will be discussed, Griffiths said.

The Houthis, who are more adept at guerrilla warfare, hold most population centers including Sanaa and the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions that is now the focus of the war.

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 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.

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.

Bundled up against the wintry cold, Houthi delegates could be seen chatting and walking on the grounds, which were cordoned off by police.

Al Ekhbariya broadcaster wrote on Twitter that the injured Houthis will be evacuated to the Omani capital of Muscat for medical treatment.

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.

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.

Yemen peace talks to start on Thursday in Sweden

He added that the team would make efforts for the success of the talks, which are a "real chance for peace".

At the same time, he called on Houthi insurgents to remain "vigilant against any attempt at a military escalation on the ground".

The ICRC will oversee the exchange after the first round of talks in Sweden.

Earlier this week, the Houthis and the Saudi-backed Yemeni government agreed to a prisoner swap.

A government team, headed by Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani, was expected in Sweden on Wednesday. "This is a country that is in a catastrophe", the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, said.

"Parties to the conflict must agree ways to reopen all ports and stabilize the nation's collapsing economy while facilitating full and unfettered access for people in need of humanitarian aid".

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.

Rights groups fear the actual toll is far higher.

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